Climate Change Resilience
On June 25, 2013, President Obama announced his comprehensive plan to reduce carbon pollution, move our economy toward American-made clean energy sources, and begin to slow the effects of climate change. The Administration is taking steady, responsible steps to cut the carbon pollution that causes climate change and threatens public health. Reducing carbon pollution will help keep our air and water clean, protect our children, drive innovation to modernize our power plants, and create good American jobs as we move toward cleaner, more efficient forms of energy.
As we act to curb the carbon pollution that is driving climate change, we must also prepare for the impacts that are too late to avoid. Across America, states, cities, and communities are taking steps to protect themselves by updating building codes, adjusting the way they manage natural resources, investing in more resilient infrastructure, and planning for rapid recovery from damages that do occur. As laid out in the President’s plan, the Federal Government has an important role to play in supporting local efforts to build stronger, safer communities and infrastructure, protecting our economy and natural resources, supporting sound science to manage climate impacts, and ensuring that Federal operations and facilities can continue to protect and serve citizens in a changing climate.
Executive Order on Preparing the United States for the Impacts of Climate Change
As called for in the Climate Action Plan, President Obama signed an Executive Order on November 1st, 2013 to direct Federal agencies to take a series of steps to make it easier for American communities to strengthen their resilience to extreme weather and prepare for other impacts of climate change. The Executive Order instructs agencies to modernize Federal programs to support climate-resilient investments, plan for climate change related risks to Federal facilities, operations, and programs, and provide the information, data, and tools that state, local, and private-sector leaders need to make smart decisions to improve preparedness and resilience.
The Executive Order also established a Task Force of state, local, and tribal leaders to advise the Administration on how the Federal Government can respond to the needs of communities nationwide that are dealing with the impacts of climate change. The Task Force members include state, local, and tribal leaders from across the country who will use their first-hand experiences in building climate preparedness and resilience in their communities to inform their recommendations to the Administration.
The Executive Order also called for a Climate and Natural Resources Priority Agenda that represents a first of its kind, comprehensive commitment across the Federal Government to support resilience of our natural resources. It identifies a suite of actions the Federal Government will take to enhance the resilience of America's natural resources to the impacts of climate change and promote their ability to absorb carbon dioxide. The agenda was developed jointly by Federal agencies and is informed by the President's State, Local, and Tribal Leaders Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience and other stakeholder engagement.
Agency Climate Change Adaptation Planning
Under Executive Order 13514, President Obama directed Federal agencies to cut waste, pollution, and costs in Federal operations and to evaluate agency climate risks to protect taxpayer investments and ensure they can continue to meet their mission and serve the American public in the face of a changing climate.
In its October 2010 Progress Report, the Interagency Climate Change Adaptation Task Force called for collaborative approaches within the government to address key cross-cutting issues related to climate change preparedness and resilience. The Task Force is working to ensure Federal agencies align their climate change adaptation planning efforts to build a coordinated and comprehensive response to the impacts of climate change on public health, communities, oceans, wildlife, and water resources.
- Federal Agencies worked with stakeholders to develop a National Action Plan for managing freshwater resources. Released in October 2011, the plan provides an overview of the challenges a changing climate presents for the management of the Nation’s freshwater resources and describes actions that Federal agencies will take to help freshwater resource managers ensure adequate water supplies and protect water quality and public health.
- To translate President Obama’s National Policy for the Stewardship of the Ocean, Our Coasts, and the Great Lakes into on-the-ground actions to benefit the American people, the National Ocean Council released the final draft of the National Ocean Policy Implementation Plan in April 2013. The Implementation Plan describes specific actions Federal agencies will take to address key ocean challenges, give states and communities greater input in Federal decisions, streamline Federal operations, save taxpayer dollars, and promote economic growth. It also includes a series of steps Federal agencies will take to improve resilience and prepare communities for climate impacts, including sea level rise and more frequent or severe extreme weather.
- Fish, wildlife, and plant resources provide important benefits and services to Americans every day, including jobs, income, food, clean water and air, building materials, storm protection, tourism, and recreation. Federal agencies partnered with state, tribal and local representatives to develop a National Fish, Wildlife and Plants Climate Adaptation Strategy to address the impacts climate change is having on our natural resources and the people and economies that depend on them. The final Strategy was released in March 2013.
Climate Science and Global Change Research
Climate science within a global change framework is the foundation for a U.S. strategy for resilience, and provides essential inputs for adaptation decisions across the country. The Global Change Research Act (GCRA) of 1990 established the interagency U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) “to understand, assess, predict, and respond to human-induced and natural processes of global change.” The 13 participating Federal agencies have invested significant resources in understanding and modeling the physical science of climate as well as the implications of climate change for human and natural systems. The U.S. investments include observing systems in the oceans, on land, and in the atmosphere; research on climate impacts and vulnerability; and development of information to support decision-making. USGCRP also participates in global efforts to monitor and model circulation patterns in the ocean and atmosphere, as well as land surface-atmosphere interactions.
A U.S. strategy for resilience will also benefit from a comprehensive National Assessment of climate impacts and response options, required every four years under the GCRA. The National Assessment provides a mechanism for engaging communities at the regional, tribal, state, and local levels to build a shared vision of our nation's most pressing challenges related to climate change. The USGCRP is currently working on a strategy for the next National Assessment, which, in addition to assessing climate change impacts, will also help align USGCRP and related research efforts with the Climate Change Adaptation Task Force's work. The Assessment will identify science needs in understanding current and future climate impacts and regional or sector-related vulnerability to those impacts, supporting resilience and mitigation decisions, and informing effective translation of science into services and applications.
On October 28, 2011 the Task Force released the 2011 Interagency Climate Change Adaptation Task Force Progress Report outlining the Federal Government's progress in expanding and strengthening the Nation's capacity to better understand, prepare for, and respond to extreme events and other climate change impacts. The report provides an update on actions in key areas of Federal adaptation, including: building resilience in local communities, safeguarding critical natural resources such as freshwater, and providing accessible climate information and tools to help decision-makers manage climate risks.
On March 16, 2010, the Task Force released an Interim Progress Report, recommending key components to include in a national strategy on climate change adaptation. In October 2010, the Task Force articulated a set of policy goals and recommendations in a Progress Report to the President.