Statements from the White House Office on Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Working Group II Report
Dr. Alondra Nelson, performing the duties of Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, and Deputy Director for Science and Society:
“Today, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its latest report documenting the consequences of climate change for our planet, our nation, and our communities. It provides two clear messages. First, climate change has caused widespread impacts to nature and people, and some impacts, such as the loss of plant and animal species or the permanent submergence of coastal lands, could be irreversible on human timescales. Second, scientists, communities, and businesses have conceived of extraordinary adaptation measures to respond to these impacts, and we must move rapidly to put them in place as we also accelerate decarbonization of our lives and the economy.
The report – which integrates social science more than any of its predecessors – shows that climate change is causing such impacts as heat-related health consequences and deaths, the dieback of forests and coral reefs, and increased flooding of coastal communities. Here in the United States, such impacts have already become too familiar, disrupting our lives and livelihoods.
All too often, it is the people who have contributed least to the problem and have the fewest resources to adapt that bear the greatest burden of these impacts. While the United States and the world have made important gains in limiting greenhouse gas emissions and warming of the planet, our efforts to date are not nearly enough. Left unchecked, the damage bill from climate change will continue to grow, undermining global efforts to fight poverty, improve health, and avoid disasters.
Now is the time to respond. We have the evidence, we have the solutions – now we need action. This latest report shows that cutting carbon pollution could avert the most drastic consequences of climate change. It also highlights the many opportunities to enhance human resilience to the changing climate. Cities, farmers, and water managers are already making smart choices about the future and adapting how we design our infrastructure, use resources, and manage the land and oceans. But we must accelerate our efforts to adapt to climate change at all levels. Scaling up these interventions can save more lives, protect communities, and preserve nature for future generations.
This is exactly why the Biden-Harris Administration launched the President’s Emergency Plan for Adaptation and Resilience (PREPARE). This plan is intended to help more than half a billion people in developing countries adapt to and manage the impacts of climate change by 2030. It’s also why the U.S. National Climate Task Force is advancing actions to better assist communities and their leaders, institutions, businesses, and residents in building a more resilient future.
Science and technology have been critical to informing the world about the risks of climate change as well as illuminating pathways toward solutions. We thank all 270 authors – and especially the 33 U.S. authors from 28 institutions across 15 states and the District of Columbia – for their herculean efforts over the last five years, during which they reviewed, assessed, and cited 34,000 sources and responded to 62,000 comments during the extensive, multiple-stage review periods. Scientific insights, innovation, and action on climate are needed now more than ever. We at OSTP and in the Federal government are focused on not only discovering, synthesizing, and marshaling knowledge for policy, but also making it available and useful to those who need it to make decisions about their lives. By directing world-class scientific capabilities to the needs of those on the front lines of the climate crisis, we can change the course of the health of people and the planet for the better.”
The Honorable Jane Lubchenco, Deputy Director for Climate and Environment at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy:
“Today, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a report on climate impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability. It says in no uncertain terms that climate change is having major impacts on people and the planet and it urges bold action to reduce emissions and accelerate adaptation. The report also makes clear that these efforts will be more successful if they include a strong focus on nature. This is because climate change, biodiversity, and people are intimately interconnected. Fortunately, integrated, nature-based solutions are available. We do not have to wait to invent new solutions. We have clear science; we have compelling evidence; now we need the bold action inspired by known successes. It is time to empower people to take actions that improve human health and well-being, protect nature, and address inequities that climate change widens.
The climate-driven changes across the United States and around the world will worsen unless there is swift, effective, and sustained action. We face species extinctions, loss of habitats and wild areas, disappearing natural heritage, and reductions in the many benefits that society receives from nature. Many of these benefits we get for free, such as healthy waters in which to take our children fishing or pollinators essential to many crops. Climate change interacts with and exacerbates other stresses on our ecosystems, from pollution, to land conversion, to overharvesting of natural resources. Coral reefs are bleaching, animals that depend on sea ice are declining, and major declines in wildlife, fish, trees, and wild plants are occurring due to climate-caused worsening droughts, wildfires, and heat waves.
We can reduce future harm to our own health, jobs, the economy, and the ecosystems around us by taking actions now that reduce greenhouse gases and by investing in adaptation actions that guard against future impacts of climate change. The IPCC report demonstrates that the pace of these investments must accelerate and must include long-term planning. Responding to climate change now can address ‘sunny day flooding’ in places like Miami, where rising sea levels now inundate streets and buildings on a regular basis.
The IPCC report shows that “nature-based solutions,” or investments in nature that help people and ecosystems, hold substantial untapped potential. In coastal cities and towns, investments to bring back dunes, reefs, and marshes give some of the country’s most sensitive species a second chance, while also protecting homes and lives from devastating coastal storms and flooding. As an added bonus, these same investments create important economic opportunities for recreation and tourism, along with habitat for fish and wildlife.
Nature-based solutions provide multiple benefits. Planting trees in cities or installing “green roofs” keeps communities cooler, reducing urban “heat-island effects,” lowering the risk of heat-related illnesses and reducing energy bills. Farmers taking action to diversify landscapes, plant drought-resistant crops, and monitor and conserve soil moisture can improve productivity and increase food security. Climate adaptation actions can address social inequities and ensure that more communities are able to participate in building a better future.
The Biden-Harris Administration is acting to enhance the resilience of the United States and the world to climate change, but we recognize that much more is needed and echo the IPCC report’s call for even greater collective ambition. The Administration is working hard to understand and address the disproportionate effects of environmental change on underserved communities; and to bring the current best-available evidence to bear on policy. The IPCC report identifies the real and present danger of climate change to the planet, to our economy, and to us. The report also highlights options for a brighter future. We must harness all possible solutions, including those provided by nature, to tackle the climate crisis.”