Wednesday, March 17, 2010

White House Task Force Interim Report On Climate Change Adaptation

Mar 16: The White House Interagency Climate Change Adaptation Task Force, which includes representatives from more than 20 Federal Agencies, released an Interim Progress Report which outlines the Task Force's progress to date and recommends key components to include in a national strategy on climate change adaptation. These six 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 brief 7-page report explains that 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" and the White House Task Force was formed to work in parallel and in coordination with USGCRP, to begin to develop Federal recommendations for adapting to climate change impacts both domestically and internationally. President Obama placed special emphasis on adaptation when he ordered, on October 5, 2009 [Executive Order 13514], the establishment of an integrated strategy towards sustainability in the Federal Government. Part of the order referenced the work of the Task Force and called on it to report to him within a year on Agency actions in support of developing the domestic and international dimensions of a U.S. strategy for adaptation to climate change. The Interim Progress Report is now available for 60 days of public comment and the Final Report will be presented to the President in October 2010.
    The final report will detail the development of domestic and international dimensions of a U.S. strategy for adaptation to climate change, agency actions in support of that strategy development process, and recommendations for any further measures to advance towards a national strategy. The Task Force indicates that it "will not, however, deliver a complete U.S. adaptation strategy to the President." Five workgroups (on science inputs to adaptation, agency process, water resource management, insurance, and international assistance) are currently reviewing existing policies, operations, procedures, and other tools that affect the Federal government's ability to respond to and prepare for climate impacts. The workgroups will suggest options for improving the government's adaptive capacity as climate change continues. To date, the workgroups have reviewed relevant literature, analyzed existing agency adaptation activities, and conducted listening sessions with external groups and experts on managing climate impacts and adaptation efforts. Case studies, legislative proposals, and comparisons of other governments' approaches are also being reviewed and considered.
    According to the interim report, the Task Force has found that, "climate change is affecting, and will continue to affect, nearly every aspect of our society and the environment. Some of the impacts are increased severity of floods, droughts, and heat waves, increased wildfires, and sea level rise. Climate change impacts are pervasive, wide-ranging and affect the core systems of our society: transportation, ecosystems, agriculture, business, infrastructure, water, and energy, among others. Climate change already is affecting the ability of Federal agencies to fulfill their missions."
    And, while there already is "substantial U.S. government and non-government activity towards adapting and building resilience to climate change risks. . . there still are significant gaps in the U.S. government's approach to climate change adaptation and building resilience." The Task For says the gaps include: Coherent research programs to identify and describe regional impacts associated with near-term, long-term, and abrupt global climate change Relevant climate change and impact information that is accessible and usable by decision-makers and practitioners; A unified strategic vision and approach; Understanding of the challenges at all levels of government; Comprehensive and localized risk and vulnerability assessments; Organized and coordinated efforts across local, State and Federal agencies; Strong links between, and support and participation of, Tribal, regional, State, and local partners; A strategy to link resources, both financial and intellectual, to critical needs; and A robust approach to evaluating and applying lessons learned.
    The report indicates that a national strategy for climate change adaptation and resilience would help address the gaps. It says, "The strategy should emphasize two major changes in the way the U.S. government operates. First, agency climate change adaptation and resilience requires a flexible, forward thinking approach. This represents a shift away from using past conditions as indicators of the future, and a requirement for on-going investigation, revision and adaptive management. Second, responses to climate change challenges and opportunities should be integrated into current plans, processes and approaches of the U.S. government. This integration will allow adaptation and building resilience to become part of existing activities, and to be considered within the context of the broader system of stresses, risks and opportunities."
    The report indicates that over the next seven months, the Task Force may refine recommendations around structural issues such as improving and integrating science results in developing policy and a framework for Federal agency adaptation, as well as cross-cutting topics, including water resources management and international adaptation. The Task Force also may establish additional workgroups, in cooperation with USGCRP, including those to inform the development of a national strategy in the areas of communications and capacity-building, coordination and collaboration across government and with partners, evaluation and learning, and other priority issues. Through a series of regional outreach meetings and pilot activities, the Task Force will continue moving towards recommendations on the development of a national strategy on climate change adaptation.
    Access the Climate Change Adaptation Task Force website for an overview and background information (click here). Access the interim report (click here).