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6ÂÂÂÂÂÂÂ Federal Climate Change Adaptation Planning THE INTERAGENCY CLIMATE CHANGE ADAPTATION TASK FORCE Maria Blair White House Council on Environmental Quality Maria Blair began by saying that the Interagency Climate Change Adaptation Task Force was established in early 2009 under the leadership of the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Some 23 federal agencies and offices and close to 350 people are involved in the task forceâs work. The initial mandate was to make recommendations on adapting to climate change, both nationally and internationally. The activity responded to three ques- tions: (1) How does the federal government deal with adaptation in its own programs and operations? (2) How does the federal government best sup- port adaptation activities at lower levels of government? (3) How should the United States help other countries with greater vulnerability build resilience, especially given considerations of the effects of climate change on national and homeland security, development assistance, and, through market effects, on global supply chains? In October 2009, President Obama signed an executive order focused on greenhouse gas emissions reduction in the federal government, which included a section that recognized the task force and called on it to develop ârecommendations towardâ a national adaptation strategy by October
6 FACILITATING CLIMATE CHANGE RESPONSES 2010. The task force has not been asked to produce a national adaptation strategy by that time. Blair indicated that, by then, the task force would not even be able to produce a suite of recommendations for the issues currently defined, let alone future issues. She anticipated that the October 2010 report would offer some substantive and process recommendations for federal government action. Blair stated that the interim progress report released on March 16ÂÂÂÂÂÂÂ, 2010, does not contain many recommendations but states three important conclusions to which the 23 agencies agreed.1 First, climate change risk and adaptation opportunities are critical issues for the United States. Second, the federal government must adapt and improve resilience. Third, the task force has begun working to understand the implications of climate change for its work domestically and internationally. The task force found that there is substantial activity under way already in the federal government and in the country. Some U.S. states, cities, and counties have begun to assess risks and opportunities and to adapt and build resilience, as have other countries. The federal government is taking action through several different agencies; however, there are significant gaps. These include the lack of a unified strategic vision; of an understanding of the challenges at all levels of government; of organized and coordinated efforts across scales; of strong links between support and participation of tribal, regional, and state governments; of coherent research programs to identify and address impacts and of relevant and accessible impact infor- mation for decision makers; of comprehensive and localized vulnerability assessments; of budgetary and other resources; and of a robust approach to integrating these issues and learning and applying lessons. So although the government is engaged, it still lacks many of the needed building blocks. The interim progress report highlights two themes. One is mainstream- ing or integrating: climate change adaptation needs to be part of the ev- eryday decisions and core missions of all affected agencies, rather than being the job of a separate adaptation office. The other is the need for a forward-looking, flexible approach. The past should not be the sole input to decision making: some agencies will need to make significant changes in how they make decisions. The report lays out a minimum set of components of a national ad- aptation strategy. The first is integration of science throughout decision making and policy, from the physical to the social sciences. A second is communication and capacity building: there is a need to develop a good way to talk about adaptation that engages people and invites them into a decision-making process, and there are real challenges to the ability to 1 See http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/microsites/ceq/20100315-interagency- adaptation-progress-report.pdf [accessed September 2010].
FEDERAL CLIMATE CHANGE ADAPTATION PLANNING understand key needs for capacity building, even within the federal govern- ment. The third requisite is coordination and collaboration, both of which are critical in the development of new approaches. Fourth, prioritization criteria are needed among the actions to be taken, especially for interagency and government-wide action. Fifth, a flexible framework is needed for agen- cies to use in integrating climate risks and adaptation measures into their missions and operations: the task force is piloting a set of principles for agencies to use. Sixth, evaluation (learning) is essential, and the process of addressing climate adaptation must itself be adaptive over time and experi- ence: people need to learn from the actions they are taking and to change as they move forward. The task forceâs next step is to report by October with initial recom- mendations, including some near-term and some longer term process rec- ommendations. It held a set of listening sessions during fall 2009, another set is going on now, and a series of regional outreach sessions is planned both nationally and internationally. Blair offered some additional observations related to the questions of concern at the workshop. The adaptation planning process was started in the government by two scientists (Jane Lubchenco and John Holdren) and by Nancy Sutley, CEQ chair, who had previously worked on water issues. The need for integration of adaptation into many agenciesâ missions and operations and into their cooperation with each other is a core principle for advancing effective adaptation. Although the task force is seeing mo- mentum and interest in some places, in others social inertia prevents any movement at all. The lack of capacity is a major barrier to further progress: there is a need to invest in the skill set needed for adaptation across many agencies. In Blairâs view, there is a tension between mainstreaming adapta- tion into all the relevant agenciesâ operations and building the distinctive capacity for addressing adaptation that is also needed. The task force does not propose to create a new âadaptation officeâ in the federal government, yet without some source of concentrated expertise on it, there is a real gap in capacity. The government also lacks effective approaches for internal coordination and collaboration or a good bridge for collaboration with state and local governments and the broader public. The task force process has also focused more on how to use what is understood today than on defining an agenda for further research that is needed. There are some areas of research coming to their attention (through disaster researchers, for example), but these are not yet systematically or carefully selected to include all relevant bodies of knowledge. In fact, not many scientists have been involved with the task force: those involved have been mainly practitioners. Also, there are other places in the government to address the research issues (such as the U.S. Global Change Research Program and the National Assessment of the Consequences of Climate
FACILITATING CLIMATE CHANGE RESPONSES Change). In conclusion, Blair said that the task force is not yet ready for management, as it does not yet have anything to manage. She added that flexibility is a real challenge for the federal government. NATIONAL ASSESSMENT OF CLIMATE CHANGE Kathy Jacobs Office of Science and Technology Policy Kathy Jacobs spoke briefly about the new National Assessment of Climate Change now being organized. She said a major item of discussion is how the federal government will change the connection between science and decision making in this assessment. In the past, the national assess- ment process was focused on writing a report on the state of vulnerability. The desire now is to focus on a process rather than a reportâa process to reduce vulnerability across the country. The assessment would be framed in terms of decision support rather than providing a summary picture. She said the nation has not benefited as much as it should because the national assessment was organized previously to meet regulatory goals. Now the government wants to use the assessment to build national capacity. She said that there is no dedicated budget for the national assessment and that only NOAA has even requested any funds for it. The leaders of the process are trying to build a process that communities own, as well as a long-term system for evaluating vulnerability and risk across the country by knitting existing observational systems together. The intent is to use the process to influence the focus of federal investments. DISCUSSION Susanne Moser asked Blair how resilience is understood in the assess- ment group, and also what it is being mainstreamed into. Blair said she began by hating the word âmainstreamingâ because she thought it was an excuse for ignoring the issue. But she now thinks that the challenge of changing the decision system is even larger than the challenge of adapta- tion. She said she would like for the federal government be at the point at which the Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Department of Transpor- tation take climate projections into account in making their infrastructure decisionsâeven though the system for doing so is very imperfect. She added that there is no federal conversation about radical change in the decision- making systems. Carolyn Olson said that an audience at Agriculture Canada liked the
FEDERAL CLIMATE CHANGE ADAPTATION PLANNING task forceâs definitions for adaptation and resilience.2 She also suggested that the adaptation issues are structured differently in different agencies, noting that U.S. Department of Agriculture is a department that tradi- tionally links research to extension and is thus different from some other departments. Stewart Cohen asked if capacity building includes creating more ex- tension agents. He questioned, for example, if engineering training should include training in climate change, and whether such cross-training could make extension efforts more effective. Blair replied that the idea of exten- sion as part of capacity building is interesting. She said that thinking about how different agencies will approach that will be an ongoing process. Rick Piltz asked about coordination needs among federal agencies, and federal-state-local coordination. He saw an obvious need for a national adaptation preparedness office and could not understand why the federal government is not considering this. Blair said that the task force is focusing on coordination challenges among agencies and on federal-nonfederal coordination, not on intra- agency coordination. She said that the possibility of a central office is not off the table, but the task force wants to make sure that everyone pays at- tention to climate adaptation and does not delegate the issue to specialists. The task force is trying to learn from successful models, but it is a major challenge. She said that the role of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) is critical, and that the task force has issued a draft guidance docu- ment on incorporating climate change into NEPA, which is open to public comment. She said that the government needs to adapt NEPA to adapta- tion, noting that climate change challenges NEPA to incorporate flexible, forward-looking approaches. One participant asked whether anyone is thinking about how the coun- try will adapt to mitigation. Blair replied that the task force is not looking at adapting to mitigation, although it does emphasize the need to consider the links between mitigation and adaptation. Maria Carmen Lemos asked whether there is an inventory of adaptation actions and, if so, whether there is a focus on understanding what would be the no-regrets actions. Blair said that the best inventory of adaptation ac- tions was published by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) in September 2009 using data up to May 2009. (The report can be found only on the GAO website.) The task force has been considering whether to 2 Adaptation is defined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change as âadjustment in natural or human systems in response to actual or expected climatic stimuli or their ef- fects, which moderates harm or exploits beneficial opportunities.â Resilience is defined as âthe capacity of a system to absorb disturbance and still retain its basic function and struc- ture.ââ See http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/microsites/ceq/20100315-interagency- adaptation-progress-report.pdf [accessed September 2010].
0 FACILITATING CLIMATE CHANGE RESPONSES update that report, but there are questions about how to define its cover- age. For example, should everything the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) does be considered part of climate change adaptation? She noted that there are political choices about what is counted, predict- ing that the task force is not likely to go in the direction of publishing an inventory. Kristie Ebi asked about the process for setting the priorities and who finally gets to decide. Blair replied that she cannot identify a formal process for priority setting but that there are a few key priority issues: water, coasts, health, and urban systems. She noted that there are now 12 working groups and that prioritizing across these areas is a really hard challenge. Roger Kasperson pointed to the continued lack of serious social science input and asked how many social scientists are on the task forceâs five working groups. Blair said there were few scientists of any kind, except in the science working group that Claudia Nierenberg leads; the task force is dominated by practitioners. It is not defining a research agenda, but rather is trying to use what the sciences can offer today. Blair said the task force is probably not adequately addressing the social science issues, but neither is it addressing the physical science. She said they do not have sufficient guidance from social sci- ence on how to engage people, adding that there is only limited social science knowledge available to them. Other participants expressed differing judgments about how much the social sciences could offer to adaptation planning. Nierenberg said that in the science working group, there are a lot of people from the human dimensions community and more from the pro- gram management community. This group is gathering available knowledge about natural disasters and communication. The working groupâs task, however, concerns moving the science enterprise closer to decision makersâ needs, so it is focusing on coordination mechanisms, such as deliberative processes. Jacobs pointed out that the task force is designing an adapta- tion strategy but not yet a program. The Global Change Research Program (GCRP) is supposed to have been connecting science to adaptation for 20 years, but this has not been a priority before. She said that this is now a very significant part of the vision being developed in OSTP, and that it will be a point of discussion with GCRP. Thomas Dietz asked if there is a way to have the agencies study the impacts of the actions they are taking. He also asked whether the new concept of the national assessment involves only a process, or if there will also be publications from it. Blair emphasized that agencies should evalu- ate impacts of their programs and that the task force is relying heavily on learning from past work. It has looked at city plans, the actions of foreign governments, and other sources to develop an approach for the federal government. She said that the task force may even have been too reliant on that sort of work.
1 FEDERAL CLIMATE CHANGE ADAPTATION PLANNING Kasperson asked if the national assessment was going to do a com- prehensive risk assessment with metrics of lives saved. Jacobs replied that it will take a risk-based approach. Ebi commented that stakeholders have different sets of priorities, a situation that raises issues of communica- tion and capacity building. She said that if science alone is used to make decisions, there will be repercussions. Kasperson noted that a good risk assessment would not be just science. Cohen said that terms like âadap- tive managementâ and ârisk-based decisionâ have different meanings to different people, so that trying to apply approaches defined in such a way is problematic. He said that a conversation is needed that exposes all the mental models and questioned whether the national assessment process could put such terms out to the public so they can be discussed and defined. Blair said that the adaptation task force will not recommend national pri- orities or a comprehensive risk assessment approach to assess priorities. She said it was not going to preclude that conversation, but she added that the question of who organizes the conversation is an interesting one. Consider- ing that so much about adaptation varies by geography and other factors, she questioned whether the right place to have such a conversation is the federal government. Jacobs noted that one of the first planned workshops will be on vul- nerability and risk assessment criteria for use in the national assessment. She expected that none of the major issues will be resolved in the short term but pointed out that the national assessment is a long-term process. She said the assessment will not stop writing reports. It is required to do that, and the next one is due in three years. The point in her presentation was that it is not doing the assessment just to write a report; it is intended to inform decisions. So if the assessment is asked how energy, water, and coasts intersect, it wants to be able to answer. The adaptation task forceâs science working group is looking at capacity mapping, to find out where agencies have capacity, what the key components of an information system are, and determining who has the needed capacity. Moser stated that the first national assessment was not âownedâ across all the agencies and asked whether the new paradigm would be broadly owned. Jacobs replied that the leaders of the assessment are trying to cre- ate an environment in which all the agencies see it as in their interest to be part of the process. So far, there has been no pushback. Several agencies will contribute, even though there is no budget item for this. Still, it will take time to make the assessment happen. Blair added that GCRP has only a limited set of agencies and that the adaptation task force has a much broader set, which includes all the key agencies in the process. The adapta- tion group wants to harness the value of GCRP but to engage a broader group of agencies and people.
2 FACILITATING CLIMATE CHANGE RESPONSES Ian Burton commented that it is exciting to hear the recognition that the country is at the beginning of something that is being approached with humility. He said that one can set priorities within sectors and localities, even without getting everyone to sing from the same page. He concluded with the comment that adaptation must itself be an adaptive process.