Readout: OSTP Stakeholder Listening Sessions on Climate Services
President Biden’s Executive Order (EO) on “Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad” emphasizes the need to expand and improve climate information for all members of the public so communities can better address the drivers of climate change and are prepared for increasing climate impacts. Although a diverse array of climate services (data, products and information about climate) is currently available, the U.S. lacks a nationally coherent plan for effectively translating science into information and tools that support planning and decision making at national, regional, and local levels, and ensuring equitable access to climate information for underserved communities.
In response to this EO, and building on prior federal activities in this space, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) launched a Fast Track Action Committee on Climate Services (FTAC) under the auspices of the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC). The FTAC is facilitating the development of a national framework for climate services in collaboration with other federal partners. The FTAC is also building on prior recommendations from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine and the Government Accountability Office.
On behalf of the FTAC, OSTP held a series of listening sessions in December 2022 to meaningfully engage stakeholders on the Biden Administration’s efforts to advance the accessibility, usability, and usefulness of federal climate information and services. The listening sessions were structured as small-group interactions to maximize discussion and participation. Stakeholders included representatives from colleges and universities; non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and philanthropies; the private sector; and state, local, Tribal, and territorial governments. Participants were asked to provide feedback on the appropriate scope of federal climate services, gaps and limitations of existing services, opportunities for enhancing federal climate services, best practices for co-production of climate information, and training and workforce development needs.
Four recurring themes emerged:
- The federal government is a trusted source of climate information and maintains a rich set of data, products, and tools. However, that richness creates navigation challenges that hinder the ability of users to find information that meets their needs, so the federal government is likely to get more return on its investment in climate services by focusing on the user experience and providing guidance on how to use existing resources.
- While users often need insights regarding how the climate will change in the future to plan adaptation strategies to enhance their resilience, climate projections by themselves are not enough. Users also need data and tools on the social and economic impacts of climate change, as well as options for how to plan and implement responses to those impacts.
- Accelerating the uptake and use of climate services to respond to the climate crisis will require building capacity among users. This includes enhancing training and workforce development so that users across the country are better equipped to use climate services and identify resources for funding greenhouse gas mitigation, climate adaptation, and resilience projects.
- A variety of opportunities exists for enhancing equity and inclusivity of federal climate information. This includes prioritizing disadvantaged communities and incorporating Indigenous, traditional, and local knowledge in the design and delivery of climate services.
These perspectives reflect both long-standing challenges with federal efforts to providing climate information to the American public as well as additional emerging challenges due to the growing urgency of responding to the climate crisis.
The feedback from these listening sessions will inform development of the national framework for climate services report responsive to the EO. OSTP, NOAA, and FEMA are actively developing this report in collaboration with federal partners.