Authors of major environmental assessments should take steps to ensure that the reports are useful to policymakers and leaders, say the authors of the Global Water System Project's (GWSP) "Global Assessments: Bridging Scales and Linking to Policy." Four global, long-range assessments—the UN Environment Programme's Global Environmental Outlook 4, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's Fourth Assessment Report, the World Bank's International Assessment of Agriculture Science and Technology, and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's Second Environment Outlook—are all scheduled to be released by mid-2008.

GWSP's report, which grew out of a joint workshop with The Integrated Assessment Society on May 10-11, 2007, at the University of Maryland, focuses on:

  • Preparing environmental assessments that are accessible and relevant to policymakers;
  • Accurately representing phenomena across different scales and across different regions; and
  • Improving tools for policy formulation and decision making.

ECSP Director Geoff Dabelko, in his article "Expectations of Assessments: North American Policy Perspective," offers practical suggestions for increasing these assessments' impacts on policy, including:

  • Making the most of the current focus on climate change to increase the prominence of environmental assessments, but also find other policy "hooks" for these reports—such as the 2007 U.S. Farm Bill;
  • Significantly increasing the time and resources devoted to disseminating the assessments to the public, the media, practitioners, and policymakers—and tailor the outreach to each audience; and
  • Broadcasting the results of assessments not only to governments' environmental ministries, but also to their finance, health, energy, foreign relations, and development bureaus.