The examples that follow illustrate how greater participation in USGCRP could benefit agencies and other entities not currently engaged in USGCRP activities. They are organized around the four major goals of the USGCRP Strategic Plan (USGCRP, 2012; Box 3) and include both past efforts and potential future ones.
In its previous review of the USGCRP Strategic Plan (NRC, 2012), the Committee concluded that, in order to meet its legislative mandate, the Program needs to address “all of global change, whether or not related to climate.” The Committee encouraged the Program to continue moving toward a risk-based framework that aims to understand how interactions among current and future global change, vulnerabilities, and capacities could alter challenges and opportunities for individuals, communities, and states in coming decades. This means integrating knowledge from the physical, biological, and social sciences and understanding sectoral risks and options for response broadly. Providing the science to support informed decision making to effectively and efficiently manage changing sectoral risks is a priority for the Nation. As global changes continue, a broader range of agencies will need to address the associated risks to achieve their mission mandates.
The Committee’s 2012 review further recommended that to achieve the goal of addressing all risks associated with global change, the Program needs “to better integrate the social and ecological sciences” and to move toward “an integrated observational system that connects observations of the physical environment with a wide variety of social and ecological observations” (NRC, 2012). The Committee reiterates the 2012 report’s conclusion that achieving this expansion presents a grand challenge, especially considering budget constraints and the fragmented structure of federal research (NRC, 2010, 2013b). For challenges like better integration of social and ecological sciences, one set of promising opportunities for advancing science under the constraints mentioned lies in more fully engaging agencies that already collect data relevant to the USGCRP mission. Box 4 presents an example of data that could be used to provide baseline information on vulnerability and resilience to global changes and to measure the effectiveness of adaptation efforts. It also discusses the broader challenge of linking data collected for purposes unrelated to global change with the needs of global change science and ways to meet it. Many of these agencies also serve constituencies likely to be affected by global change and can thus help the USGCRP identify and prioritize directions for advancing science that would support those constituencies.
BOX 4: Case Study on Integrating Data for Advancing Global Change Science
There are opportunities for federal agencies to work together in specific areas related to advancing global change science that are not currently being addressed by interagency activities; this includes integrating data from various sources across the federal government. As noted in previous NRC analyses (NRC, 1992, 2004, 2005, 2008, 2009a, b), federal agencies, along with public and private sector organizations in the United States and elsewhere, collect high-quality, long-term, readily accessible data on a variety of phenomena relevant to the impacts, vulnerability, and potential for adaptation to global changes. These data include human population characteristics, economic productivity and consumption, health and disease patterns, insurance coverage, crop yields, hazards exposure, air quality, distributions of threatened and endangered species, ecosystem status, forest inventory, livestock, fisheries, soil and vegetation distributions, fresh water quality and quantity, and nutrient distributions.a Although developed for purposes unrelated to global change, many of these databases could provide valuable baseline information about human and biological systems that may be affected by global changes and could be used in vulnerability assessment and evaluating possible adaptation efforts.
Federal agencies with such resources that are not currently central participants in USGCRP activities include parts of USDA, DOC, DOI, HHS, DOT, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and the Department of Labor. They could be usefully engaged with core USGCRP agencies, sometimes including agencies within their own Departments. One goal of such engagement is to facilitate analyses of multi-sectoral effects of global change, such as linked effects on water, agriculture, energy, and health, by taking advantage of existing data with longer time series.
Linking federal data collected for purposes unrelated to global change science with the needs of global change science and decision making presents a significant challenge because, although the data are available, their usefulness may not be evident. A previous NRC analysis (NRC, 2009b) concluded that understanding interactions among global environmental and human systems, and thus supporting societal responses, required that observation systems include physical, biological, and social observations, and that this would necessitate a restructuring of the federal research effort. Short of such a major restructuring, the main challenge of linking data lies in identifying for scientific analysis the data most useful for addressing specific questions. To do this, the federal agencies or units that collect data of potential value for global change science and decision making need to engage with data users in discussions around particular topics that call for data linkages. This could occur in many ways. For example, engagement of such agencies or units in national, regional, or sectoral assessment processes, along with global change scientists and decision makers, can help identify data linkages in ways that inform the various data suppliers on key objectives for data linkage.
As understanding of global change has evolved, the relative emphases among the multiple roles of USGCRP have also evolved to attempt to meet the challenges faced by the nation. This shift is reflected in the four goals of the 2012 Strategic Plan (Box 2), which
included an increased emphasis on Goal 2—to inform decisions—compared to earlier plans (e.g., USGCRP, 1990). As such, the Committee discusses this Goal in more depth than the other Goals.
Informing decisions goes beyond the traditional division between basic and applied research (Stokes, 1997), because of the way that the needs of users stimulate changes in the priorities of research (see NRC, 2009a and McNie et al., 2015). Basic research has traditionally been guided by the researchers themselves, while applied research generally aims to solve problems defined primarily by users in the field and in mission agencies. The scientific knowledge needed to inform many important decisions concerning global changes is best developed in response to decision makers’ needs as well as to developments in science. Thus, the priorities of scientific research investment will evolve as changes occur in both these domains. The priorities of both users and researchers evolve with changes among key stakeholders, shifts in the institutional arenas in which decisions are made, emerging risks from global change, the eruption of crises, and—not least—from the production of new and surprising research results.
The task of the USGCRP is to facilitate coordination among and within its member agencies so as to capture the benefits of the learning that accompanies scientifically informed decision making in response to global change. As the climate changes, for example, there is an increasing need for actionable information for adaptation and resilience planning at the regional and local level. Effective mobilization of the federal government’s important but not unlimited capabilities is of instrumental benefit to the Nation—as demonstrated by how experience with previous large cyclones enabled better preparations in 2012 as the track of Superstorm Sandy was being analyzed.
The evolution of the Program to include more emphasis on supporting decisions has encountered serious challenges to its progress, not all of which have been fully surmounted. A key challenge is the sparse and uneven availability of social science expertise and data among the constituent agencies, which impedes progress toward both Program Goals 1 and 2. In a constrained budget environment that has only tightened over the past five years, it can be difficult to find the modest resources needed to improve social science research for global change, particularly when the data and expertise are located within one agency but the decisions to be supported are in parts of other agencies. As a result, use-inspired research (which is central to the Strategic Plan’s Informing Decisions goal) remains new and somewhat fragmented—and therefore fragile—within many USGCRP member agencies.
One example where scientific information is crucial for informing decisions around managing risk is at the intersection of global health and national security. This is embodied in the work of the Global Health Security Agenda,4 which seeks—in collaboration with other nations, international organizations, and public and private stakeholders—to accelerate progress toward a world safe and secure from infectious disease threats and to promote global health security as an international security priority.
This agenda includes preventing and reducing the likelihood of disease outbreaks and detecting threats early to save lives. Achieving these aims will become more effective and efficient by considering how climate change, globalization of trade and travel, and other global environmental changes could affect the geographic range, incidence, and seasonality of infectious diseases, as well as by using environmental data in developing and deploying early warning systems. Agencies involved in this agenda include HHS, DOS, DoD, USDA, and USAID. Determining the extent to which global change contributes to events such as the recent Ebola crisis or the ongoing refugee crisis in Europe is extremely difficult because of multiple interacting drivers, but such crises exemplify the kinds of events anticipated with accelerating global change. Greater participation of the National Institutes of Health (NIH; within HHS), DoD, USAID, and other agencies in the Program will be mutually beneficial, providing scientific information to agencies to aid them in prioritizing efforts to address global health security and obtaining information and data from agencies to better characterize vulnerabilities and capacities. There is an opportunity for USGCRP to help engage these agencies further in the work of this agenda, as well as in related work on global health and national security.
Another key area where scientific information is essential is the research and analysis needed to support emissions reduction decisions (i.e., mitigation). Federal, state, and city/local authorities face choices in the selection and design of regulatory actions, subsidy programs, and public investments to address mitigation and adaptation aspects of global change at their jurisdictional level. Understanding the economic cost, environmental effectiveness, and distributional consequences of these measures depends on sound engineering data, insights from the social sciences into public response, and appropriate risk analysis and decision science. Research and analysis that can bring this information to bear is spread across many federal agencies. It is available in DOE Offices of Fossil and Nuclear Energy, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, and Energy Policy and Systems Analysis, and in many projects in the national laboratories. It is also found in agencies that deal with greenhouse-gas (GHG)-emitting sectors, such as parts of HUD, DOT, HHS, and USDA, and in some states and local agencies. The USGCRP has an opportunity to serve mitigation decision support needs by improving the connection of information from relevant parts of these agencies to decision makers and identifying the most important gaps in data, research, and analysis (Box 5).
In addition to informing decisions related to mitigation, another key area where scientific information is essential is in community resilience and the adaptation to global change, especially climate change. There are opportunities for agencies or parts of agencies that do not currently participate heavily in USGCRP activities to help inform stakeholder groups outside the government as well, e.g., supporting local level planning and engagement. This will be especially important as non-federal stakeholders increasingly confront the challenges of connecting scientific projections of global change with actions designed to increase local or regional resilience, for example, by working more closely with the engineering community that designs, builds, and manages infrastructure to co-produce knowledge on climate resilient solutions. Specifically, there are opportunities for work on these issues through DHS, in particular through the Federal
BOX 5: Case Study on Mitigation Decisions
One example of an opportunity where federal agencies could work together more effectively on using global change science to support decisions is in the area of emissions reductions (mitigation). The Federal government is involved in a number of efforts to reduce GHG emissions, which are an important part of the U.S. response to the global change threat. In one example, President Obama issued an Executive Order (EO) on March 19, 2015 mandating that all federal agencies reduce their global environmental impacts (White House, 2015). Specifically, under the EO, federal agencies are given deadlines for achieving specific GHG emissions reduction targets, thus creating a federal constituency for research and analysis to support implementation of this task. These agencies will need credible, objective, and science-based means to assess options, measure progress, and inform choices. For example, to design programs to reduce GHG emissions from product and service supply chains, they need life-cycle assessment data, as well as research to understand opportunities and barriers to meeting particular emissions reductions goals. USGCRP could help coordinate the flow of scientific information to help inform these decisions.
In addition, many mitigation decisions are made outside the federal government. The Clean Air Act imposes mitigation requirements on the states, as recently done via the Administration’s Clean Power Plan. Many power generation options rely on water and other natural resources, so effects of global change on these resources, as well as its influence on energy demand (e.g., hotter days that drive increased air conditioning), are important factors in the implementation of this federal initiative. Moreover, the long-lived nature of power infrastructure implies that mitigation decisions need to account for multi-decadal changes. In addition, the technologies supported by DOE’s research and development that aid all mitigation efforts would benefit from information from global change science about ways to improve their resiliency.
USGCRP could also help coordinate the work of agencies such as HUD, USDA, and DOT in their support of efforts by a wide range of stakeholders to reduce GHG emissions—for example, by providing data on the effectiveness of various possible mitigation programs in the sectors where they have responsibilities and by giving technical support to the particular actions undertaken. This coordination work would involve communication in both directions—relevant scientific information flowing from the agencies to decision makers and pressing gaps in data, research, and analysis—being fed back to agencies responsible for funding and performing research.
Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and through HUD. Internationally, there are opportunities for work on these issues through DOS and USAID.
In this discussion of resilience and adaptation, the impact of global change on transportation infrastructure and operating systems is another example in which global change science could link productively to decision makers’ concerns. There is an increasing need for resilience planning for roads and railways to ensure that this critical infrastructure is able to adapt to climate change. This is an opportunity for USGCRP to engage with this community, potentially including working with DOT (already a formal member of USGCRP) to provide information and tools to state departments of transportation, metropolitan planning organizations, and transit agencies to incorporate climate change in their planning processes. These processes could also serve as models of
how to move new knowledge and decision support tools from agencies and organizations that are primarily research focused to those at the federal, state and local level who make decisions that could be better informed by the research.
Other examples of opportunities related to resilience and adaptation for enhanced participation by parts of an agency that is already within the USGCRP membership are the fisheries and coastal sections of NOAA (Box 6). There are examples of existing programs that demonstrate how federal agencies and various non-federal entities can work together around specific tasks, including interagency efforts on the permitting process for oil exploration on North Shore of Alaska (see Box 7) and the task force to examine the multiple causes for dead zones in the Gulf of Mexico.5 Finally, an example of federal and regional collaboration is that formed around community health risks in the Great Lakes region (Box 8).
One of the most important tasks of the USGCRP is the National Climate Assessment (NCA). The GCRA requires that USGCRP produce a National Assessment every four years that:6
- Integrates, evaluates, and interprets the findings of the Program and discusses the scientific uncertainties associated with such findings.
- Analyzes the effects of global change on the natural environment, agriculture, energy production and use, land and water resources, transportation, human health and welfare, human social systems, and biological diversity.
- Analyzes current trends in global change, both human-induced and natural, and projects major trends for the subsequent 25 to 100 years.
The 2012 Strategic Plan states that Goal 3 is to “Build sustained assessment capacity that improves the Nation’s ability to understand, anticipate, and respond to global change impacts and vulnerabilities” (USGCRP, 2012).
In general, collaboration that is motivated by a need to solve concrete problems, such as meeting a statutory mandate to report to the American people as is the case for conducting the NCA, can foster informal ties and habits of cooperation that can create a more agile and responsive government. Although not all previous efforts have succeeded, having a deadline and a specific task can often help promote working together. The previously mentioned Alaska Interagency Working Group on Oil and Gas Development described in Box 7 is an example of the capacity of the government to form mission-oriented, multi-agency collaborations that link science to decision making, when faced with well-defined and time-constrained objectives that require a multidisciplinary approach.
BOX 6: Case Study on Opportunities for Participation by Multiple Parts of One Agency
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) contributes to global change research and decision making in multiple ways, and that multiplicity tests the capabilities of the USGCRP as coordinator of the federal research effort. This challenge can be seen in other members of the USGCRP, including DOI, for example; NOAA is by no means unique in this challenge.
NOAA, a charter member of the USGCRP, is an agency of DOC and a leading federal agency in the study of global change, especially with regard to long-term data collection, stewardship, and analysis. NOAA’s Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OARa) collects and processes primary data on the atmosphere and oceans (e.g., from its weather and climate satellites and NASA’s satellites), conducts research, and has helped build foundational knowledge of the biophysical climate system. NOAA also provides scientific knowledge to inform decisions that can build resilience in coastal environments and across the country. Its program of Regional Integrated Sciences and Assessments centers (RISAsb) has pioneered collaboration between universities and users in subnational governments, business, and civil society.
Within the USGCRP, the climate science and observational expertise of NOAA have been well represented and influential over the life of the Program. NOAA’s budget authority is included in the budget cross-cut of the Global Change Research Program. NOAA has been a visible presence in the Subcommittee on Global Change Research (SGCR), including the current chair of the SGCR, who is an internationally renowned NOAA climate scientist.
Yet the breadth of NOAA’s expertise in global change research means that the link between that knowledge and the USGCRP is uneven. For some time, the National Ocean Service (NOS) has been a leader in coastal adaptation science, building the knowledge needed by coastal planners to prepare for and respond to sea-level rise and changes in the hazards of severe storms. Another part of the agency, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFSc), is the government’s scientific authority in the management of commercial fisheries in federal waters that extend 200 nautical miles from shore. NMFS announced that it is developing a Climate Science Strategyd (Sobeck, 2015), drawing together information needed to inform fisheries management in a changing climate—such as observed and projected changes in the spatial range of commercially important fish species as ocean conditions change. The climate, coastal, and fisheries parts of the agency are of necessity largely separate in their operations. While the climate part has been strongly engaged in USGCRP, the NOS and NMFS have not been as active.
Improving the coordination by different parts of agencies (or different agencies within departments) is often stymied by the need for federal entities to have unique identities and to avoid duplication of effort. USGCRP can promote the robust inclusion of NOAA expertise in accord with the strategic plan, not only when that expertise can strengthen the work of other agencies, but sometimes when better coordination of different parts of the same agency can help meet strategic plan goals. In this example, there is an opportunity for NOAA’s NOS and NMFS to have access to better information on the challenges of global change, for NOS and NMFS to have stronger input into the determination of USGCRP research priorities, and for NOS and NMFS to contribute their scientific capabilities to advance understanding of global change. USGCRP activities could be potential mechanisms for achieving these outcomes.
BOX 7: Case Study on the Alaska Interagency Working Group on Oil and Gas Development
Successful working groups established in non-USGCRP contexts can provide good insights to the Program on methods for coordinating the efforts of federal agencies with entities outside the federal government. For example, in July of 2011, President Obama issued Executive Order 13580, establishing the Interagency Working Group on Coordination of Domestic Energy Development & Permitting in Alaska. The Order was issued in response to growing pressure from within and outside government to establish an improved decision-making process with respect to offshore oil and gas exploration and production in Alaska (Clement et al., 2013) and also reflected growing concerns about resource development in a rapidly changing Arctic (Bush, 2009; National Security Council, 2014; NSTC, 2013; Obama, 2015).
The Working Group (WG) is led by DOI, in collaboration with the National Ocean Council and US Arctic Research Commission, and approximately 90 other federal, state, tribal, municipal, private-sector, and non-governmental organization (NGO) affiliates contributed substantially. The immediate motivator leading to creation of this partnership was the incipient rise in drilling permit requests, which continues to this day.a Such requests are likely to continue, given that the outer continental shelf of the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas are anticipated to be rich in oil and natural gas (Holland-Bartels and Pierce, 2011), so the WG will likely be needed moving forward.
The WG was convened to integrate all relevant government and (where possible) private sector data sources relevant to the offshore energy permitting process in the outer shelf—essentially creating a ready-made audience and demand for scientific information. Many of the variables, indicators, and metrics essential to the offshore permitting process are in fact those that are also generated by the research community, including baseline inventories depicting the region’s oceanography, climate, geology, and biology as well as environmental sensitivity studies.
While the USGCRP has long used interagency working groups to focus interagency coordination around specific topics, this new WG offers a model for how the Program can expand its representation across different levels of government, the private sector, and extra-governmental stakeholders. A series of challenges and opportunities can be identified through this WG example: (i) effective coordination across agencies has been essential in order to appropriately transfer scientific knowledge to the applied (permitting) arena; (ii) having the information needs of decision makers be well-matched to ongoing scientific research has been important, and new research has needed to be responsive to specific calls for applied knowledge (something the WG has generally accomplished well); (iii) synthesis and integration of complex scientific knowledge has needed to make science useful for applications; (iv) assessments have been needed to complement basic research, stimulate dialogue with stakeholders, and create new avenues of inquiry (which then spur further research); and (v) monitoring and metrics have been essential to tracking success or failure in the permitting process and need to be operationalized. These lessons bear clear links to the issues that USGCRP will likely encounter if it expands beyond its traditional federal agency base.
a See http://dog.dnr.alaska.gov/permitting/permitting.htm, http://www.boem.gov/About-BOEM/BOEM-Regions/Alaska-Region/Leasing-and-Plans/Plans/Shell---Chukchi-Sea-Exploration-Plan-and-Supporting-Documents.aspx, and http://www.boem.gov/ak-gg-permits/.
BOX 8: Case Study on Collaborating to Cope with Health Risks
USGCRP could learn from successful regional efforts to collaborate with partners in state and local communities. One such issue relates to health risks, which are expected to increase due to climate change in many regions of the United States (Luber et al., 2014). These include respiratory diseases as a result of increased air pollution and allergens, heat illness, water-borne diseases, vector-borne diseases, wildfire, flooding, and injuries from use of alternative home heating sources during power outages and extreme weather events. These and other effects of climate change can also be a source of mental stress for vulnerable individuals. As with many problems where climate change exacerbates an existing risk, effective response requires collaboration among agencies that have extensive expertise in climate change, those who have deep scientific expertise in the nature of the risk, and local, state and federal agencies that have “on the ground” experience developing programs to respond to risk.
The Great Lakes Integrated Sciences and Assessments Center (GLISA),a a NOAA RISA center, is helping the State of Michigan develop approaches to deal with climate related health risks in the state, working directly with both the Michigan Department of Community Health (MI DCH) and with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Initially GLISA funded a project that allowed the MI DCH to develop heuristic models to facilitate discussions of heat stress events with municipal public health departments (Schmitt-Olabisi et al., 2012).b This led to further collaborations and, with CDC funding, a Climate Profile Report that synthesizes historical and future climate information for the state, with emphasis on specific geographic areas of concern (Cameron et al., 2015). With GLISA and CDC support, MI DCH previously identified several health risks and associated climate stressors, and GLISA is continuing to tailor climate information to address specific MI DCH concerns with respect to projected climate change.
The approach used in this effort has several features that the USGCRP may want to explore as they seek to collaborate with partners in local and regional communities. First, it began with a relatively modest exploratory effort that served both to develop a better understanding of the issues salient to the region and to allow the partners to develop mutual understanding and modes of collaboration. Second, while the participants from MI DCH, GLISA, and CDC were engaged primarily in developing a research-based assessment, the project focused early on those who would have to implement steps to reduce vulnerability. Third, the specific projects each yielded useful products (e.g., workshops, reports) but also have the added benefit of building effective links between these organizations that will facilitate future work (Bidwell et al., 2013).
The most recent NCA has demonstrated that having a tangible task provides an opportunity to promote collaboration across multiple agencies and entities at the Federal, state, and local levels and with the users of the assessments. This last NCA was successful in promoting connections with a wide array of federal and non-federal entities. More than 70 workshops were held, engaging a wide range of stakeholders and involving a team of more than 300 experts from diverse backgrounds to write the report (USGCRP, 2014).
Looking forward, ongoing assessments will be an important way to catalyze coordination. For example, in addition to the engagement described above, the third NCA catalyzed the development of a system of climate change indicators, impacts, and response strategies that was then adopted by the USGCRP for review and ultimately for implementation. The development process involved nine agencies among the current core membership of the USGCRP, several other federal agencies, and additional critical contributions from outside the federal government. The USGCRP can use this kind of process to launch collaborations that can then be built on over time. One area likely to benefit from ongoing assessment efforts is informing decisions in urban environments (Box 9).
The 2012 Strategic Plan commits USGCRP to strengthen communication and education research, to cultivate a scientific workforce that understands global change, and to integrate “global change communication, education, and engagement into core Program activities” (p. 82). Research has advanced significantly over the past decade in social network phenomena, behavioral economics, and the social psychology of opinion formation. All of these bear on a central issue in global environmental change: the link between public understanding of science, fostered by Goal 1, and an array of decisions, addressed in Goal 2. Indeed, a task of the sustained assessment process (Goal 3 is to improve public understanding by providing access to the available scientific knowledge. Research under Goal 4 thus plays an important supporting role across the Program by improving understanding of the communications challenges facing federal agencies and their partners and by providing better methods when they are available and appropriate.
The Strategic Plan also promises that the Program will “contribute to the development of multi-agency products and programs.” These commitments imply a broadening of the Program’s activities and increased integration across agencies to advance understanding of global change communication and education and to apply that understanding within agencies’ programs and to interagency needs.
These are laudable long-term objectives, but to achieve them, agencies need to coordinate, and scientists and educators within agencies need to work more effectively with science educators and stakeholders within and outside the Federal government. Considering this, the objectives will probably best be approached in stages. A promising way to start is with efforts focused on specific global change issues that intrinsically require the coordination of activities and expertise across agencies and between federal and non-federal entities.
There are many such opportunities. For example, in education and communication about seasonal climate forecasts, NOAA could work with USDA and its constituencies on communication and education about using these forecasts for informing agriculturists, with DOI and its constituencies about the implications for informing water managers and
BOX 9: Case Study on Urban Environments
Specific topics—such as the impacts of global change on urban environments—showcase opportunities where resources of the federal agencies could be brought to bear on the decisions being made at local levels on an ongoing basis. Impacts from extreme events, such as Superstorm Sandy (2012), Hurricanes Katrina and Rita (2005), and the Chicago heat wave of 1995, are often the most immediate ways that the physical climate system affects well-being on both immediate and longer time scales. Urban areas are particularly vulnerable to extreme events, given their locations (often on coasts or rivers), high concentration of people, and complex, interdependent, and aging infrastructure. Aftermaths of such disasters demonstrate not just infrastructure failures, but also the inadequacy of institutions, resources, and information systems to prepare for and respond to rare high-consequence events.
The diversity of challenges in cities provides a perfect example of how USGCRP activities to inform decisions and conduct sustained assessments could benefit from greater involvement with federal agencies, as well as with external participants. Interest is high at local, regional, national, and international levels in urban vulnerability to climate change, especially the increasing frequency and magnitude of extreme events and adaptation strategies for cities. This interest—indeed, urgency—is reflected in activities from the international 100 Resilient Cities program (Rockefeller Foundationa) to the formation of national organizations like the Urban Sustainability Directors’ Network to reports such as the State, Local, and Tribal Leaders Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience Recommendations to the President to local urban adaptation plans like New York’s PlaNYC.
The coordination between federal agencies addressing urban issues and USGCRP has been limited to date. Both the 2009 and 2014 NCAs included assessments of the risks of climate change to urban areas, including their populations and infrastructure, but there is opportunity for more engagement on this topic. DHS and HUD can make important contributions to the challenge of understanding and preparing for global change risks to urban areas. FEMA (part of DHS) responds to and provides relief from disasters. HUD has partnered with EPA and DOT to create the Sustainable Communities program, which encourages planning for resilience; however, the USGCRP has not played a major role in this effort so far.
One potential role for the USGCRP is to stimulate public-private collaborations that can connect appropriate federal expertise to decision makers at the city level. One such collaboration is the Rockefeller 100 Resilient Cities program, which funds the development of a staff position in urban government, together with “access to solutions, service providers, and partners.” The federal government includes a prominent set of such partners, and USGCRP could play a central role in marshaling the diverse resources of the government to leverage more of these public-private collaborations and connect with more decision makers at the city level. Cities are vulnerable to a range of global changes, including human migration, food insecurity, and political disruption. These challenges intersect with the global change mission of the USGCRP. Because of the diverse nature of these challenges, the Program would be a logical point of integration across the federal government for collaboration with other institutions and governments.
entities responsible for wildfire preparedness and response, with HHS and FEMA on informing preparation and response for floods and wildfires, and with NSF and the Department of Education on the pedagogical aspects of understanding and using this relatively unfamiliar type of forecast. Some of this work is already underway in regional centers—NOAA RISAs, USDA Climate Hubs,7 the DOI Climate Science Centers,8 and the DOI Landscape Conservation Cooperatives (LCC9). Enhanced collaboration in these areas of interest—potentially fostered under USGCRP—could help agencies like USDA, DOI, HHS, and FEMA to better fulfill their missions by leveraging information from other USGCRP agencies, in this case NOAA.
Another opportunity is for USGCRP to engage networks of actors beyond the federal agencies in education and communication activities. A major class of stakeholders in Goal 4 is institutions of education at every level. These include teaching, outreach to communities of various kinds, and research, which are all activities of educational institutions in which the research done in pursuit of Goals 1-3 is taught, used, and argued over. As with the other goals of the Strategic Plan, much is already being done by the agencies participating in the USGCRP, and the Program’s role is largely to coordinate across agencies when needed in order to advance citizen understanding, education, and workforce training when agency missions lead to important gaps or omissions.
The education and communication missions of the USGCRP agencies can be productively implemented through regional networks to make effective use of the USGCRP’s research, technical data, and agency support. In addition to near and mid-term decisions related to mitigation options, communities throughout the United States are tackling the short- and mid-term challenges posed by such climate-related disruptions as extreme storm, flooding, and wind events. Additionally, in many areas, jurisdictions partner to conduct multi-jurisdictional planning and risk reduction actions (see Box 10). Local governments will make decisions on implementation actions to address climate risks in the Local Hazard Mitigation Plans as an initial step. Regional and federal agencies working on collaborative planning anticipate, at this point, that communities will adjust land use development policies and decisions to account for sea level rise and coastal flooding impacts. There is also the expectation that communities will enact updated wild land fire measures and drought mitigation practices stemming from the regional planning and coordination activities currently in process (including numerous resources utilized by the NCA10). One example of collaborative resilience planning is being conducted in the San Francisco Bay Area by the regional council of governments, sponsored by FEMA, NOAA, USGS, and EPA (see Box 10). Communicating with local communities around issues of resilience and climate adaptation planning is an area where USGCRP could engage larger networks of possible partners, not just other agencies.
BOX 10: Case Study on Climate Adaptation and Resilience Planning in the San Francisco Bay Area
USGCRP could broaden their reach for communicating and educating stakeholders by engaging with entities which have existing interests in working with local and regional stakeholders. An inventive approach to community planning and action was proposed by the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) and FEMA Region IX senior officials to assist local jurisdictions obliged to develop Local Hazard Mitigation Plans, as required by the Disaster Mitigation Act 2000.
The regional partners, ABAG and the Bay Conservation and Development Commission, serve as the technical support hub for Bay Area cities to tap regarding climate and natural hazards’ risk information. The foundational planning data, research findings, and risk modeling on global change used to provide technical assistance are primarily culled from USGCRP agencies.
ABAG is managing an innovative process to assist the Bay Area partner communities (101 cities and 7.4 million residents) in developing improved regional resilience planning that will result in coordinated, independent local resilience plans. This initiative supports cities to integrate solutions to anticipated climate-generated and natural disaster impacts to fulfill federal disaster risk reduction and state GHG reduction and climate adaptation requirements.
This is an example where a potential collaboration with the USGCRP agencies could enhance the combined planning for adaptation and resilience, as well as mitigation of GHG emissions. The collaboration could take advantage of the existing interest on the part of the ABAG and more fully integrate the research interests of the USGCRP agencies, not simply their observational data sets.
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