The letter states, "Both approaches are essential parts of an integrated strategy for dealing with climate change. Mitigation is needed to avoid a degree of climate change that would be unmanageable despite efforts to adapt. Adaptation is needed because the climate is already changing and some further change is inevitable regardless of what is done to reduce its pace and magnitude." The six key components identified by PCAST are:
- Focus on national preparedness for climate change, which can help decrease damage from extreme weather events now and speed recovery from future damage;
- Continue efforts to decarbonize the economy, with emphasis on the electricity sector;
- Level the playing field for clean-energy and energy-efficiency technologies by removing regulatory obstacles, addressing market failures, adjusting tax policies, and providing time-limited subsidies for clean energy when appropriate;
- Sustain research on next-generation clean-energy technologies and remove obstacles for their eventual deployment;
- Take additional steps to establish U.S. leadership on climate change internationally; and
- Conduct an initial Quadrennial Energy Review.
On the matter of decarbonizing the economy, PCAST indicates the Administration could:
- "Support continuing expansion of shale-gas production, ensuring that environmental impacts of production and transport do not curtail the potential of this approach. Continuing substitution of gas for coal (and in some instances for oil) will remain an effective short- and middle-term decarbonization measure and an economic boon only insofar as methane leakage from production and transport is held to low levels and drinking water is not adversely impacted. The Federal Government has an important role to play in both of these respects, through collecting and distributing reliable data and through strengthened regulation where the data indicate this is required. "Continue implementation of Clean Air Act requirements on criteria pollutants (such as SO2 and NOx) and hazardous air pollutants (such as mercury) to include creating new performance standards for CO2 emissions from existing stationary sources, which would follow the performance standards for new plants released in March 2012.
- "Accelerate efforts to reduce the regulatory obstacles to deployment of CCS, and continue political support for the large CCS projects currently underway.Successful demonstration of CCS will provide a role for coal in a carbon-constrained future. CCS will eventually be necessary for other large, stationary sources of CO2, including natural gas power plants and biofuel refineries. In February 2010, you created the Interagency Task Force on Carbon Capture and Storage, charging it with proposing "a plan to overcome the barriers to the widespread, cost-effective deployment of carbon capture and storage within 10 years, with a goal of bringing 5 to 10 commercial demonstration projects online by 2016." The Task Force issued a report in August 2010, recommending reforms including better Federal coordination and several possible approaches to managing long-term liability. We recommend that these findings be the basis for a directive to the relevant officials. There are several commercial CCS projects underway in the United States that have received grants from the Department of Energy (DOE). Continued support for these projects is important not only for the purpose of establishing the technical and regulatory basis for CCS in the United States, but also because U.S. support for and success with this technology will likely be influential in moving other countries such as China and India toward CCS use."