Assuring America Can Ably Adapt

This morning, the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming held a hearing titled “Building US Resilience to Global Warming Impacts.”  The hearing took place just as the Government Accountability Office released a new report finding that US reaction to climate change is happening on an ad hoc basis and is not coordinated among Federal, state, and local agencies.

Given the absence of a coordinated Federal adaptation strategy, we’ve been looking at what the options might be to fill that void.  As the Pew Center’s Steve Seidel stated in his testimony to the Committee, an improved Federal mechanism would begin with each agency developing an adaptation strategic plan to build greater resilience to climate change into its programs and mission.  He pointed to a recent announcement by the Dept. of Interior as an example.   A National Climate Service that can develop and communicate credible and actionable climate scenarios and projections for use in adaptation planning by Federal, state and local governments and the private sector is also needed.

Executive office leadership is critical.  After reviewing other climate-related interagency programs in existence, it’s clear that a national adaptation program needs to be established and chaired or co-chaired by CEQ or the Office of Science and Technology Policy.  To ensure that adaptation is truly “mainstreamed” by the federal government,  CEQ should also update NEPA regulations to require the consideration of adaption needs in all major federal actions.

Michael Tubman is a Congressional Affairs Fellow