Federal Climate Change Adaptation Task Force progress report shows early steps on a long road

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Obama Administration officials have released a progress report of a federal interagency task force that was charged by the President in October 2009 with developing and implementing a national strategy for adapting to the impacts of global climate change. Much work has been initiated at the level of federal program managers in about 20 departments, agencies, and offices, to scope a wide range of climate change impacts issues and begin the process of determining the needs and capabilities of federal agencies to address them. We have called repeatedly for the development of a U.S. national climate change adaptive preparednesss strategy linking all levels of government, and applaud this current effort—while noting how far it still must travel before the nation’s need for climate change preparedness has been met.

Excerpt from the White House Council on Environment Quality press release:

EXECUTIVE OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT
COUNCIL ON ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY
WASHINGTON, D.C. 20503

March 16, 2010

Obama Administration Officials Release Progress Report on Work of Climate Change Adaptation Task Force

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released an interim progress report of the Interagency Climate Change Adaptation Task Force.  The report outlines the Task Force’s progress to date and recommends key components to include in a national strategy on climate change adaptation.  The components include: integration of science into adaptation decisions and policy; communications and capacity building; coordination and collaboration; prioritization; a flexible framework for Agencies; and evaluation.

“The Administration believes we must prepare for the inevitable effects of climate change,” said Nancy Sutley, Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality. “We know that climate-related changes are already observed in the United States.  The Federal Government must adapt and improve resilience to minimize risk to people, natural places, and key infrastructure.  Adaptation will require thoughtful, preventative actions and investments, and demand new approaches and preparation from nonprofit, private and government entities.”

“The impacts of climate change are closely tied to our economy and national security; they affect all aspects of our society and ecosystems. This inter-agency effort will deliver on the President’s promise to base decisions on good science,” said Jane Lubchenco, Ph.D., Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and NOAA Administrator. “This Task Force is focused on enhancing the resilience of the natural environment, the built environment and human institutions to climate change and ocean acidification.”

“Effective policy demands the latest and best scientific information,” said Shere Abbott, Associate Director for Energy and Environment in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. “To this end, the Administration is strengthening the U.S. Global Change Research Program http://www.globalchange.gov/  to support evidence-based actions aimed at adapting to climate change, even as we work to mitigate the effects of climate change and deepen our understanding of its consequences for human well-being and ecosystems.”

In 2009, CEQ, OSTP and NOAA initiated the Interagency Climate Change Adaptation Task Force, which includes representatives from more than 20 Federal Agencies.  When President Obama signed the Executive Order focused on Federal Leadership in Environmental, Energy, and Economic Performance on October 5, 2009, he called on the Task Force to develop, within one year, Federal recommendations for adapting to climate change impacts both domestically and internationally. 

In October of 2010, the Task Force will report to the President on the development of domestic and international dimensions of a U.S. approach to climate change adaptation and what Federal Agencies are doing to support this effort. The Task Force also will recommend additional aspects to consider in the development of a comprehensive national strategy.

Federal Adaptation Planning

There is substantial activity underway in the U.S. to adapt to climate change and build resilience. Several States, cities and counties have begun to assess risks and develop adaptation strategies.  The Federal Government also is taking action. However, the Task Force has determined that significant gaps in the U.S. Government’s approach to this effort remain. …

The progress report and a link for submitting public comments during a 60-day comment period are posted here.

Excerpt from the report:

Progress Report of the Interagency Climate Change Adaptation Task Force

March 16, 2010

Introduction

The impacts of climate change already are being felt across the United States and the entire world. The U.S. Global Change Research Program 2009 report, Global Change Impacts in the United States, summarizes the science of climate change and the impacts of climate change on the United States, now, and some of those expected in the future. These impacts will influence how and where we live and work as well as our cultures, health, and environment. In the years and decades to come, they will grow and affect future generations. It is therefore imperative to take action now to adapt to a changing climate. Given the uncertainty of many specific impacts, we also need to build resilience to help minimize the risks associated with climate change and maximize any opportunities that climate change may create.

Continuing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is critical to limiting the extent of climate change impacts, and resulting damage. The Obama Administration is committed to creating a clean energy economy and mitigating climate change by reducing emissions. While increased mitigation efforts will reduce the effects of climate change, impacts will continue to occur, reinforcing the need for adaptation and a focus on resilience.

Adaptation and resilience will require a set of thoughtful, preventative actions, measures and investments to reduce the vulnerability of our natural and human systems to climate change impacts. This will require new approaches and preparation, especially at the local level as regional impacts differ greatly. Adaptation and resilience will require action from all segments of society—the public sector, local to Federal government, the private sector, the nonprofit sector and individuals. This challenge provides Federal, Tribal, State, and local governments with significant opportunities for innovation.

Process

The U.S. Global Change Research Act of 1990 established the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) “to understand, assess, predict, and respond to human-induced and natural processes of global change.” For more than 20 years, the USGCRP has been effectively delivering on understanding and predicting climate change. To further advance and coordinate Federal agency efforts to assess and respond, the USGCRP is currently conducting a national climate assessment and developing the research and science necessary to support a Federal adaptation strategy.

In parallel and in coordination with USGCRP, the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) convened the Interagency Climate Change Adaptation Task Force to begin to develop Federal recommendations for adapting to climate change impacts both domestically and internationally. …

Climate Science Watch is tracking this interagency climate change adaptation strategic planning effort, which has entrained many participants throughout the federal government, and will be submitting comments and recommendations on what we see as key priorities. The fact that climate change adaptive preparedness planning is now underway is, itself, a major step forward from the years of denial and delay we struggled with under the previous administration. But much time has been lost since the first National Assessment of Climate Change Impacts was completed 10 years ago, and the current effort needs to be expedited with Presidential-level support and provision of the resources needed to make real progress on this very complex set of issues.

Earlier CSW posts:
January 18: Will Obama’s FY2011 budget fund essential new climate change research priorities?

January 15: Revisiting Presidential Transition recommendations on climate change assessment and preparedness

January 12: Capitol Hill briefing draws needed attention to challenges of climate change impacts and adaptation

January 10: White House Science Office reactivating U.S. National Assessment of Climate Change

Numerous additional posts on the CSW site are archived under the categories Climate Change Preparedness and Assessment of Climate Impacts and Adaptation.

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