Expert Alert

National assessment shows climate action not keeping pace with climate risks

Headshot of Melissa Kenney smiling.
Melissa Kenney. Credit: University of Minnesota.

The Fifth National Climate Assessment (NCA5) was released on November 14. The congressionally-mandated assessment — meant to be completed every four years with the collaboration of hundreds of experts, federal agencies and public institutions — is a massive undertaking that summarizes the impacts of climate change on the United States and equips decision-makers across America with the best available science and most up-to-date understanding of climate change impacts and actions.

Melissa Kenney, director of research & knowledge initiatives at the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment, is an author for the adaptation chapter of NCA5, which covers actions that reduce risks from climate conditions and prepare for future impacts. Kenney can speak to the results of the assessment, the adaptation already underway across the country and what the future may hold for adaptation efforts in climate action. 

Melissa Kenney, Ph.D.

“Adaptation is not conceding to the possibility that the climate will change. Adaptation responds to the reality that climate change is affecting every region and sector of the U.S.

“The assessment shows that adaptation activities are occurring across the U.S., and have increased since 2018, but are still too small in scale to keep pace with the rate of climate change. Making effective adaptation decisions requires both the best available scientific information — like what is synthesized in the fifth U.S. National Climate Assessment — and intentional collaboration with communities, especially those who have been inequitably impacted by historic disinvestment decisions.

“Our future is determined by the decisions and choices we make individually and as a society. To reduce climate-related risks, we need to take bolder, transformative actions — and pick up the pace of adaptation.”

Melissa Kenney is the director of research and knowledge initiatives at the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment where she directs efforts to build synergy across IonE’s broad scientific research portfolio. Kenney is also a Principal Research Scholar in Environmental Decision Support Science with expertise in multidisciplinary, team-based science approaches to solving sustainability challenges. Her research team conducts multidisciplinary social science research to increase the use of evidence in climate adaptation and mitigation, ecosystem resilience, interdependent infrastructure decisions and water quality management. The goal of her research is to understand and improve the processes and tools that improve climate adaptation decisions, both in the public and private sectors.


About the Institute on the Environment  

The University of Minnesota Institute on the Environment supports research across the disciplines, develops the next generation of global leaders, and builds transformative partnerships – in service of solving our world's greatest challenges. IonE’s mission is to lead the way to a future in which people and planet prosper together. Learn more at

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