Consortium for Atlantic Regional Assessment: Information Tools for Community Adaptation to Changes in Climate or Land Use


Address correspondence to Rachael Dempsey, CSIRO Land & Water, GPO Box 1666, Canberra ACT 2601, Australia;


To inform local and regional decisions about protecting short-term and long-term quality of life, the Consortium for Atlantic Regional Assessment (CARA) provides data and tools (for the northeastern United States) that can help decisionmakers understand how outcomes of their decisions could be affected by potential changes in both climate and land use. On an interactive, user-friendly website, CARA has amassed data on climate (historical records and future projections for seven global climate models), land cover, and socioeconomic and environmental variables, along with tools to help decisionmakers tailor the data for their own decision types and locations. CARA Advisory Council stakeholders help identify what information and tools stakeholders would find most useful and how to present these; they also provide in-depth feedback for subregion case studies. General lessons include: (1) decisionmakers want detailed local projections for periods short enough to account for extreme events, in contrast to the broader spatial and temporal observations and projections that are available or consistent at a regional level; (2) stakeholders will not use such a website unless it is visually appealing and easy to find the information they want; (3) some stakeholders need background while others want to go immediately to data, and some want maps while others want text or tables. This article also compares what has been learned across case studies of Cape May County, New Jersey, Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and Hampton Roads, Virginia, relating specifically to sea-level rise. Lessons include: (1) groups can be affected differently by physical dangers compared with economic dangers; (2) decisions will differ according to decision makers' preferences about waiting and risk tolerance; (3) future scenarios and maps can help assess the impacts of dangers to emergency evacuation routes, homes, and infrastructure, and the natural environment; (4) residents' and decisionmakers' perceptions are affected by information about potential local impacts from global climate change.