Transparency, accountability, and fairness in the measurement, reporting, and verification of data on climate change, risks and vulnerabilities, sources of GHG emissions, and climate policy is a priority.
Although the findings and recommendations of this report are mainly directed at the federal government—especially the federal role in the design of information systems and services to support and evaluate responses to climate change—it is also relevant to decision makers in state, local, and tribal governments, and in the private and non-governmental sectors who are making decisions about climate change.
Today, decisions and actions related to climate change are being informed by a loose confederation of networks and other institutions created to help guide climate choices (Figure S.1). In the panel’s judgment, the federal government has the responsibility and opportunity to lead and coordinate the response to climate change, not only to protect the nation’s national security, resources, and health, but also to provide a policy framework that promotes effective responses at all levels of American society. Although actions taken to date offer many lessons, a patchwork of regional, state, and local policies has emerged, prompting some state and business leaders to call for the development of a more predictable and coherent policy environment at the federal level. Federal policy can benefit from comprehensive information about the actual effectiveness of emission reduction and adaptation actions across the nation. A clearinghouse could provide careful reporting and verification of what climate-related decisions are being implemented.
Even the federal response is difficult to evaluate because the number of agencies beginning to respond to climate change has expanded far beyond the core research functions of the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP)—for example, to agencies with responsibility for infrastructure, security, and housing—and because of the lack of clear, accessible, and coordinated information on federal responsibilities and policies. Many federal agencies have not yet incorporated or “mainstreamed” climate change into their own agency planning processes. Effective and visible incorporation of climate concerns as central to the ongoing activities of the federal agencies would be a major step forward. This explicit demonstration of leadership could help galvanize and maintain the development of responses in the private sector, states, regions, and localities. The panel concludes that there is an urgent need to improve the coordination of climate information, decisions, assessment, and programs across federal agencies to ensure an effective response to climate change across the nation.