Friday, October 15, 2010

White House Interagency Climate Change Adaptation Report

Oct 14: The Climate Change Adaptation Task Force, co-chaired by the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), released its interagency report -- the Progress Report of the Interagency Climate Change Adaptation Task Force -- outlining recommendations to President Obama for how Federal Agency policies and programs can better prepare the United States to respond to the impacts of climate change. The report recommends that the Federal Government implement actions to expand and strengthen the Nation's capacity to better understand, prepare for, and respond to climate change.  The recommended actions include:
  • Make adaptation a standard part of Agency planning to ensure that resources are invested wisely and services and operations remain effective in a changing climate.
  • Ensure scientific information about the impacts of climate change is easily accessible so public and private sector decision-makers can build adaptive capacity into their plans and activities.
  • Align Federal efforts to respond to climate impacts that cut across jurisdictions and missions, such as those that threaten water resources, public health, oceans and coasts, and communities. 
  • Develop a U.S. strategy to support international adaptation that leverages resources across the Federal Government to help developing countries reduce their vulnerability to climate change through programs that are consistent with the core principles and objectives of the President's new Global Development Policy.
  • Build strong partnerships to support local, state, and tribal decision makers in improving management of places and infrastructure most likely to be affected by climate change. 

    The Task Force was guided by a "strategic vision of a resilient, healthy, and prosperous Nation in the face of a changing climate." To achieve the vision, the Task Force identified a set of guiding principles that public and private decision-makers should consider in designing and implementing adaptation strategies. The principles include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Adopt Integrated Approaches:  Adaptation should be incorporated into core policies, planning, practices, and programs whenever possible.
  • Prioritize the Most Vulnerable:  Adaptation strategies should help people, places, and infrastructure that are most vulnerable to climate impacts and be designed and implemented with meaningful involvement from all parts of society.
  • Use Best-Available Science:  Adaptation should be grounded in the best-available scientific understanding of climate change risks, impacts, and vulnerabilities. 
  • Apply Risk-Management Methods and Tools:  Adaptation planning should incorporate risk-management methods and tools to help identify, assess, and prioritize options to reduce vulnerability to potential environmental, social, and economic implications of climate change.
  • Apply Ecosystem-based Approaches:  Adaptation should, where appropriate, take into account strategies to increase ecosystem resilience and protect critical ecosystem services on which humans depend, to reduce vulnerability of human and natural systems to climate change.

    The Task Force will continue to meet over the next year as an interagency forum for discussing the Federal Government's adaptation approach and to support and monitor the implementation of recommended actions in the Progress Report. It will prepare another report in October 2011 that documents progress toward implementing its recommendations and provides additional recommendations for refining the Federal approach to adaptation, as appropriate. 

    House Committee on Science and Technology Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN) issued a release from the Committee and said, "The idea of adaptation was once controversial but as the effects of climate change have become clearer, many realize the need to prepare for climate change now, while working to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. Some worry that exploring options beyond mitigation such as adaptation or climate engineering would decrease our commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. I believe we need a diverse set of tools in our toolbox to effectively and efficiently respond and adapt to our changing climate. We have to face the facts that emissions may not decrease fast enough to avoid the impacts. I'm glad we have multiple agencies engaged in finding solutions to adapt to the growing threat of climate change. At every level of government we must integrate good science into all adaptation decisions and policies."

    A number of environmental organizations including Earthjustice, Defenders of Wildlife, National Wildlife Federation, The Wilderness Society, Outdoor Alliance, American Rivers, National Parks Conservation Association and the Wildlife Conservation Society; issued a joint release on the report. Among the comments on the report, Rebecca Judd, legislative counsel at Earthjustice said, "Because climate change is already here, we urge the Obama Administration to swiftly take the next step and issue more specific direction to its land management agencies in order to help wildlife and natural places better adapt to a rapidly changing environment. When it comes to natural resources and climate change, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. The clock is ticking and we need immediate, on-the-ground conservation measures, such as the reduction of human stressors like logging and overgrazing, the establishment of climate refugia and wildlife corridors, and the protection of intact watersheds."

    Access a release from the CEQ (click here). Access a CEQ summary (click here). Access the 72-page report (click here). Access a release from the House Science Committee (click here). Access a release from the environmental organizations (click here).