Teaching Essential Principle Six
Human activities are impacting the climate system.
Teaching this principle is supported by five key concepts.
Click here to see them.
- The overwhelming consensus of scientific studies on climate indicates that most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the latter part of the 20th century is very likely due to human activities, primarily from increases in greenhouse gas concentrations resulting from the burning of fossil fuels.
- Emissions from the widespread burning of fossil fuels since the start of the Industrial Revolution have increased the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Because these gases can remain in the atmosphere for hundreds of years before being removed by natural processes, their warming influence is projected to persist into the next century.
- Human activities have affected the land, oceans, and atmosphere, and these changes have altered global climate patterns. Burning fossil fuels, releasing chemicals into the atmosphere, reducing the amount of forest cover, and the rapid expansion of farming, development, and industrial activities are releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and changing the balance of the climate system.
- Growing evidence shows that changes in many physical and biological systems are linked to human caused global warming. Some changes resulting from human activities have decreased the capacity of the environment to support various species and have substantially reduced ecosystem biodiversity and ecological resilience.
- Scientists and economists predict that there will be both positive and negative impacts from global climate change. If warming exceeds 2 to 3°C (3.6 to 5.4°F) over the next century, the consequences of the negative impacts are likely to be much greater than the consequences of the positive impacts.
What does this principle mean?
These key ideas relate to the causes and effects of human-induced climate change. The potential for human activities to increase the temperature of the Earth through greenhouse gas emissions has been described and calculated for over a century. Volumes of scientific research across multiple scientific disciplines now support this principle, and the 2014 National Climate Assessment states, "Global climate is changing and this is apparent across a wide range of observations. The global warming of the past 50 years is primarily due to human activities."
The issue of attribution - showing definitely that human activities are causing global climate change to occur - is one of the most active areas of climate research. There is substantial evidence that human activities, especially burning fossil fuels, are leading to increased levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, which in turn amplify the natural greenhouse effect, causing the temperature of the Earth's atmosphere, ocean and land surface to increase. That greenhouse gases do "trap"infrared heat is well established through laboratory experiments going back to the mid 1850s when Sir John Tyndall first measured the effect.
The well-documented trend of increasing of CO2 in the atmosphere is related to exponential increases in human population, massive land cover changes and the burning of fossil fuels. The "smoking gun" that shows clearly that human activities are responsible for recent increases in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is provided by oxygen isotopes (oxygen atoms of different atomic weight). These isotopes allow scientists to "fingerprint" the source of the carbon dioxide molecules, which reveal that the increased CO2 in the atmosphere reflects the addition of CO2 from fossil fuel burning. (see references)
Why is it important?
In this principle we examine how, due to basic physics of heat trapping gases and exponential rise in population and energy consumption, humans have become a force of nature. Clearly, this is a complex topic with enormous political, socio-economic and emotional dimensions, but the scientific results show clearly that:
- Human activities, particularly the combustion of fossil fuels, are altering the climate system.
- Human-driven changes in land use and land cover such as deforestation, urbanization, and shifts in vegetation patterns also alter the climate, resulting in changes to the reflectivity of the Earth surface (albedo), emissions from burning forests, urban heat island effects and changes in the natural water cycle.
- Because the primary cause of recent global climate change is human, the solutions are also within the human domain.
- Transparency about the causes of climate change allows for effective solutions to be developed and deployed.
What makes this principle challenging to teach?
Quite simply, this principle is challenging to teach because some sectors of the public continue to debate whether these ideas can be true, despite the well-established science. There are several possible reasons why students may resist the conclusion that humans are altering the climate. This concept may be uncomfortable to students due to feelings of guilt, political resistance or genuine lack of scientific understanding. Furthermore, projections of the effects of climate change on our society can frighten, overwhelm, or discourage students. This can result in denial or resistance to learning. Thus educators are encouraged to introduce this topic with generous scaffolding that establishes the foundations of the process of science, the underlying principles of climate science, and a reliance on the robust scientific research that supports this conclusion. Several strategies are presented on this page about Teaching Controversial Environmental Issues which emphasizes students' affective domain.
Climate and energy-related science topics are often complicated, technically challenging, non-intuitive and potentially emotionally overwhelming and politically sensitive. When individuals begin to grasp the nature and scale of the problems associated with climate and energy, they often want to know "what can I do?" Without realistic options and opportunities to address the challenges, learners of all ages can feel discouraged and turned-off by the science. What many educators have begun to do, as a way to deal with the scientific, technical and emotional difficulties of the subject matter, is weave solutions into the discussion every step of the way.
Carbon emissions have risen from about 2.5 gigatons per year in the late 1950s to 9 gigatons per year today. This graph shows a breakdown of carbon emissions by their source. Source: Data from Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Click image to enlarge.
How can I use this principle in my teaching?
- Middle school students will be familiar with climate change/global warming gathered from the media, family or at school. This can be an opportunity to develop their understanding of how human activities connect to climate change, particularly the increase in CO2 in the atmosphere. See the activity Automotive Emissions and the Greenhouse Effect.
- High school educators can help students understand the many connections between human activities and the climate system. This can be done from a historical perspective, or can employ an Earth-systems science approach. See Mauna Loa CO2 Collection Data.
- The introductory undergraduate level students can be challenged to apply their understanding of the science in a social context. The activity Global Climate Change: The Effects of Global Warming examines trends in carbon dioxide emissions and considers the human influences on atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations.
- Upper-level college students can examine datasets and employ models that illustrate the anthropogenic contributions to climate change. By having students work directly with the data and models, students can discover their own conclusions about the linkages. For an example, see Using a mass balance model to understand carbon dioxide and its connection to global warming.
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CHAPTER EIGHT Conclusions and Recommendations B ecause impacts of climate change are already being observed in the United States and elsewhere in the world, and because impacts will increase in severity even if greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are reduced substantially in the near term, the United States must improve its ability to adapt to impacts of climate change. Concerns about these impacts are generating increasing interest in adaptation. A wide variety of potential actions that might be taken by individuals, sectors, cities, and states are being discussedâin some cases without sufficient information about the options that are available (GAO, 2009a,b). Impacts of climate change have the potential to affect all sectors of human and natu- ral systems, depending on the geographic region (Chapter 2), as changes in climate conditions interact with other factors that shape vulnerabilities. The magnitude and rate of future impacts will be shaped significantly by U.S. and global actions to limit emissions (Chapter 3), as well as how the natural Earth system reacts to the resulting emissions trajectory. This means that the magnitude of risks from impacts of climate change involves a great deal of uncertainty. But the certainty of future impacts, and the high likelihood that some of the impacts have a potential to be disruptive to val- ued human and natural systems, tells us that adaptive responses are unavoidable. The fundamental question is whether we should, as a nation, act proactively to anticipate the impacts of climate change and mobilize to reduce their effects or simply prepare ourselves to react as the impacts arrive. It is the judgment of this panel that anticipatory adaptation to climate change is a highly desirable risk-management strategy for the United States. Such a strategy offers potentials to reduce costs of current and future climate change impacts by realizing and supporting adaptation capacities across different levels of government, different sectors of the economy, and different populations and environments, and by providing resources, coordination, and assistance in ensuring that a wide range of distributed actions are mutually supportive. Placed in a larger context of sustainable development, climate change adaptation can contribute to a coherent and efficient national response to climate change that encourages linkages and partnerships across boundaries between different types of institutions in our society.
A D A P T I N G T O T H E I M PA C T S O F C L I M AT E C H A N G E The challenge, however, is considerable. We do not have an institutional infrastruc- ture designed to facilitate an effective approach to adaptation challenges across this country. We do not know enough about adaptation approaches that are available across scales, sectors, and parts of the population. But without a coordinated national approach to adaptation, informed by improved information about our choices, we are unlikely to cope with the impacts of climate change in ways that avoid disruption to society, economy, and ecosystem. This chapter summarizes the panelâs findings and recommendations regarding the need for a national climate change adaptation effort. It emphasizes the term ânationalâ rather than âfederalâ because adaptation is inherently diverse and disaggregated. Adaptation options to respond to observed and projected climate change impacts (Chapter 2) are immensely diverse; choosing âhowâ and âwhenâ to adapt from a long list of possible options (Chapter 3) requires careful evaluation of the socioeconomic context, the vulnerability of the sector or region, the resources available, and the scale at which the impact is likely to be felt. There is no one-size-fits-all adaptation option for a particular climate impact across the nation; instead, decision makers within each level of government, within each economic sector, and within civil society need to weigh the many tradeoffs between the available adaptation choices. Most of the deci- sions about how and when to implement adaptation options will require local input, and in many (if not most) cases, adaptation projects will occur at the local level. The first step in this decision-making process is to better understand the existing vulner- abilities and to consider possible adaptation strategies and options. Recommendation 1: All decision makersâwithin national, state, tribal, and local agencies and institutions, in the private sector, and nongovernmental organiza- tions (NgOs)âshould identify their vulnerabilities to climate change impacts and the short- and longer-term adaptation options that could increase their resilience to current and projected impacts. Chapter 4 provides an illustrative approach to such a planning and decision-making process, based on efforts already under way in many cities and states in the United States, and Chapter 5 considers roles and contributions of different members of the American climate change action family. Chapter 6 summarizes how Americaâs climate choices regarding adaptation relate to international contexts, and Chapter 7 summa- rizes science and technology needs outlined in the preceding chapters. 0
Conclusions and Recommendations OvERCOMINg ADAPTATION CHALLENgES AND IMPEDIMENTS REQuIRES A COMPREHENSIvE STRATEgy As indicated above, the panel concludes that realizing Americaâs potential to reduce effects of climate change impacts requires a comprehensive and anticipatory re- sponse strategy, bringing together the wide variety of scales, sectors, and concerns that are characteristic of Americaâs approach to solving complex problems. Challenges that call for a comprehensive approach, which might take the form of a national adap- tation plan, include the following: 1. Scales of impacts and resources are often mismatched. Although adaptation has to be implemented at the local and regional scales, some climate change impacts such as sea level rise will exceed the adaptive capacity available at those scales. Many U.S. institutions at virtually every scale lack the mandate, the resources, and/or the professional capacity to select and implement climate change adaptations that will reduce risk sufficiently, even when these adaptation actions are urgently needed. New institutions and bridging organizations will be required to facilitate the communication and integrated planning efforts needed to address complex problems. 2. Current resource management systems are often based on outdated assumptions. Existing management systems are most often designed around an assump- tion that the natural environment is essentially stationaryâan expectation that future conditions will vary within historic bounds or around a constant average. These assumptions are no longer tenable given the changes already being observed (Milly et al., 2008). 3. An adaptation option for one sector can put new pressures on another sector. Certain adaptation decisions might adversely impact other sectors, neighbor- ing states, or regions, resulting in a patchwork of actions that may create as many problems as they solve. Because of the projected decrease in snowpack in the western mountains, for example, building reservoirs to increase water storage capacity might help ease the regionâs water shortages. Yet these ac- tions could also decrease sediment flows to the coast, increasing the problem of coastal erosion and the vulnerability of coastal infrastructure to sea level rise. Conflicting mandates within federal and state agencies managing these sectors make it difficult to align such competing goals to meet the complex interconnected adaptation challenge. 4. Some adaptation actions are difficult to implement at the state, regional, or local scale due to cost or to the wide range in perception of risk by the public.
A D A P T I N G T O T H E I M PA C T S O F C L I M AT E C H A N G E Some proactive adaptation measures, such as moving population and infra- structure away from the coast, are likely to be useful in the longer term as cli- mate change impacts become more visible and damaging. Yet such measures would be extremely difficult to initiate at the local level due to public opposi- tion that hinders proactive actions by politicians and other decision makers and the high initial cost of relocating infrastructure. There is a need to begin planning and investing in studies of such long-term options now in order to ensure that a full array of adaptation options are available when slow-onset impacts manifest in the future. 5. The nation will not be able to adapt to all the adverse impacts of climate change. Not all adverse consequences can be avoided through adaptation, although the nation can significantly reduce the extent of damage through proactive actions to avoid, prepare for, and respond to climate change. Establishing ad- aptation priorities will be required, but such priority decisions will need to be made in the specific decision context. Before priorities can be identified across the nation, consistent methods for conducting vulnerability assessments need to be developed and applied. Without a well-integrated and coordinated national effort, the United States is cur- rently ill prepared to deal efficiently and effectively with climate challenges. An unco- ordinated approach to adaptation in the United States would result in a patchwork of activities that may lead to unintended consequences, conflicting mandates, and po- tential maladaptations. For this reason, and in keeping with recommendations of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, National Governors Association, and a recent Government Accountability Office report (GAO, 2009b), the panel finds that a national framework is needed to overcome impediments to adaptation, to guide the nationâs adaptive re- sponse to climate change in a coordinated fashion, and to provide sound advice about how to approach decisions to limit the impacts of climate change. Again, ânationalâ does not mean âfederal government.â But, as indicated in Chapter 5, an intermediate multiparty national approach will depend on leadership, a clear strat- egy, and a centralized coordination mechanism in which the federal government will play a major role, in order to: â¢ Leverage limited resources; â¢ Ensure equity in adaptive capacity and investments across needs and geographies; â¢ Avoid redundant or conflicting projects, mandates, and guidelines; â¢ Improve understanding of changing conditions; â¢ Overcome behavior-based limitations to the capacity to adapt; and
Conclusions and Recommendations â¢ Encourage sharing of information, ideas, and lessons learned. Although appropriate governance structures and institutions have been identified as a critical component in building adaptive capacity (Adger et al., 2009), U.S. institutions at virtually every scale lack the mandate, the resources, and the professional capacity to select and implement climate change adaptations that will reduce risk sufficiently, even though these adaptation actions are needed (Moser, 2009a). The panel identified a number of approaches to building adaptive capacity in the United States, including encouraging autonomous efforts to adapt led by the private sector, building networks to support adaptation activities within regions and sectors, and establishing a pro- gram within the federal government to coordinate and guide adaptation activities across all scales of decision making. In reviewing these options and those taken in sup- port of adaptation efforts in other countries, the panel has concluded that the United States needs to use all of these approaches. Climate change adaptation represents an entirely new activity for the federal gov- ernment. The kinds of coordination and support required across the nation and the world will necessitate unprecedented cooperation between agencies and a myriad of interests at the state, local, and international levels. To effectively adapt, the nation will need to facilitate interstate cooperation and coordination across the federal govern- ment on adaptation planning, considering such approaches as the following: 1. Building on and supporting existing efforts and experiences of state and local agencies and partners in the private sector and other NGOs. The strategy needs to be action- and results-oriented, and should measure progress in terms of improving the nationâs adaptive capacity, improving quality of life, and build- ing economic advantages by finding solutions and reducing risks and vulner- abilities to high-priority climate change impacts. 2. Providing institutional arrangements to link federal incentives (funding, techniÂ cal assistance, and intergovernmental coordination) with minimum quality standards, and requirements. Efforts will be needed within regions and within sectors that have historically had limited interaction or actually been in com- petition with one another. The magnitude and complexity of the adaptation problem requires forging new relationships between the public and private sectors, academia, interest groups, government agencies at all levels, and pri- vate citizens. In some cases, it may be most appropriate to develop adaptation plans that are sector-based, such as within the energy industry. In other cases, regional plans or programs may prove more effective. The roles and responsi- bilities of decision makers at multiple scales will need to be defined and then refined over time.
A D A P T I N G T O T H E I M PA C T S O F C L I M AT E C H A N G E 3. âMainstreamingâ consideration of climate change adaptation into existing federal programs. Examples of programs where climate adaptation components, including financial and technical assistance, could be incorporated include the âFarm Billâ (and agricultural policies more generally), the National Flood Insur- ance Program, agency and program authorization bills, the National Environ- mental Policy Act, the Transportation Reauthorization Act, and the Endangered Species Act. 4. Identifying an approach that, in exchange for federal financial and technical supÂ port, assists states (and jurisdictions within them, as appropriate) in establishing climate adaptation plans that meet minimum standards for federal approval. Preparations to limit the impacts of both low-probability, high-impact events and high-probability, low-impact events should be addressed in these plans, as well as proposals to mobilize existing resources, programs, and policies for adaptation and to identify areas where new institutions will be required. The plans should identify resource needs for planning as well as for implementa- tion, and potential existing sources of funding. 5. Focusing on building climateÂresilient systems in all public sectors, including land use planning, energy, water and wastewater systems, transportation systems and infrastructure, stormwater systems, utilities, solid waste management systems, public facilities, coastal hazard planning, public safety services, and health and social services. Plans should provide a flexible framework for setting priorities and coordinating implementation, including regional partnerships, and should ensure strong public participation and nongovernmental and private-sector stakeholder engagement in planning and implementation (see Chapter 4). Recommendation 2: The executive branch of the federal government should initi- ate development of a collaborative national adaptation strategy, which might take the form of a national adaptation plan. The strategy (or plan) should be de- veloped in partnership with congressional leaders, selected high-level represen- tatives of relevant federal agencies, states, tribes, business and environmental organizations, and local governments and community leaders. Development of a national strategy or national plan should incorporate a âbottom-upâ approach that builds on and supports existing efforts and experiences at the state and local levels and efforts of partners in the private sector and other NGOs. In particular, the national adaptation strategy should: â¢ Establish leadership on climate change adaptation at the highest levels of government; â¢ Establish a durable vision (including goals, principles, and policy frameworks)
Conclusions and Recommendations for future public policy decision making with respect to adapting to the im- pacts of climate change; â¢ Focus on reducing current and future vulnerabilities to climate change im- pacts, promoting sustainability, and limiting risks in regions and sectors; â¢ Aim to develop a coordination mechanism with state and local governments, NGOs, tribes, and the private sector; â¢ Ensure ongoing climate impact and response assessment activities to provide foci for interactions and information production and sharing as a key part of adaptive risk management and multi-institution coordination; â¢ Consider minimum standards and guidelines for a wide range of adaptation actions, with the expectation that some states, tribes, and local governments will adopt more stringent standards; â¢ Focus adaptation efforts on long- and short-term benefits, and capitalize on opportunities to adapt now that may become increasingly difficult in the future; â¢ Encourage private-sector investments and the development of technologies for adaptation solutions; â¢ Identify a process to reduce barriers to adaptation that currently exist in legis- lation, such as incentives for maladaptive behavior and agency mandates that conflict with adaptation goals; â¢ Address serious needs to improve capacities in major institutions, including staff resources in federal government offices and agencies, to connect adapta- tion knowledge with societyâs needs; â¢ Establish a process to set goals for U.S. policy for climate change adaptation in the international arena; and â¢ Respond to new science and information on a regular basis and promote an adaptive approach in strategic decisions. A NATIONAL PROgRAM SHOuLD bE DEvELOPED TO IMPLEMENT THE NATIONAL ADAPTATION STRATEgy Because decision-making entities across all sectors and scales of governance need to develop adaptation plans, the national strategy needs to be tied to effective institu- tional arrangements for implementation that might include such tools as federal in- centives (funding, technical assistance, and intergovernmental consistency), standards, requirements, metrics, and coordination mechanisms to avoid conflicts across agen- cies or jurisdictional mandates. Effective adaptation will also require a mechanism that facilitates learning from the various adaptation efforts.
A D A P T I N G T O T H E I M PA C T S O F C L I M AT E C H A N G E To promote consistency across federal, regional, state, and local plans and projects, such institutional arrangements need to include mechanisms to ensure that plans, projects, and grants are effectively coordinated. The federal consistency provision of the federal Coastal Zone Management Act (16 U.S.C. Â§ 1456(c)) could be considered as a model for this critical aspect of intergovernmental coordination, where states are authorized to object to any federal activities that are inconsistent with their federally approved and enforceable coastal policies. Because public awareness of possible climate change impacts and adaptation strate- gies is inadequate, well-developed engagement is needed that includes ways to train, leverage, expand, and coordinate existing operational capacity within states, regions, sectors, tribes, the private sector, and NGOs. Public education and extension will be im- portant components of adapting to climate change impacts, because effective adap- tation measures will require the participation and support of individual citizens and a variety of sectors and decision makers (ACC: Informing an Effective Response to Climate Change; NRC, 2010a). Especially important is the fact that, because there is a lack of information at local scales about future climate change impacts and great uncertainty about the timing of these impacts, approaches need to be developed that promote flexibility in respond- ing to changing conditionsâas opposed to a rigid response intended to be perma- nent. Adaptive management involves learning from past mistakes; recognizing the complexity and the interrelated nature of sectoral interests such as water, agriculture, and energy; and understanding the relationships between adaptation activities and the need to limit GHG emissions. Over time, there will be a need to adapt to our own adaptations (and maladaptations) as well as to our efforts to limit the magnitude of future climate change. Recommendation 3: Federal, state, and local governments, together with non- governmental partners, should work together to implement a national climate change adaptation program pursuant to the national climate adaptation strat- egy. The program should: â¢ Consider guidelines, minimal standards, and review criteria for adaptation planning and implementation; â¢ Consider a long-term funding mechanism to support climate change adapta- tion planning and implementation at all levels that is linked to achieving or exceeding federal standards and guidelines; â¢ Ensure that a consistent methodology is applied in evaluating plans and set- ting funding priorities;
Conclusions and Recommendations â¢ Consider mechanisms to avoid conflicts among federal, state, and local plans through a consultation process; â¢ Mandate the inclusion of climate change adaptation as a key element in exist- ing federal planning requirements (e.g., Hazard Mitigation Assistance, Federal Highway Administration, etc.) and require federal agencies to build adapta- tion objectives into their operations, budgets, and planning processes and programs; â¢ Provide incentives for private-sector participation in solution development; â¢ Develop long-term strategies now that have a long lead time for implementa- tion and require further evaluation (e.g., strategies to limit development in hazard-prone areas); â¢ Consider short-term incentives for adaptation options that provide clear benefits over the long term that might not otherwise be initiated due to high initial costs; and â¢ Educate and engage the public concerning climate change impacts and vul- nerabilities through coordinated efforts across agencies, levels of government, and the private sector. Because of the need to continuously develop new approaches, exchange lessons learned across the nation, evaluate efforts, and train decision makers, a critical com- ponent of this national program will be an adaptation support service and network. This support service and network will need to be closely coordinated with the national climate service (ACC: Informing an Effective Response to Climate Change; NRC, 2010a), as well as the U.S. Global Change Research Program (ACC: Advancing the Science of Climate Change; NRC, 2010b). The programâs support service should: â¢ Build a clearinghouse of adaptation services and best practices built on a series of consistent metrics and deliver information, training, and capacity- building services for climate change adaptation and mitigation that are broadly available to government, NGOs, and private-sector interests and that build upon existing extension programs, adaptation networks, and other cur- rent outreach capacity; and â¢ Provide climate monitoring, mapping, and technical assistance to inform gov- ernments at all levels and the private sector on climate impacts and vulner- abilities, as well as to evaluate the effectiveness of adaptation activities and ensure that managers of public lands and resources have adequate support for adaptations to protect ecosystem services and critical habitats.
A D A P T I N G T O T H E I M PA C T S O F C L I M AT E C H A N G E ADAPTATION SHOuLD bE SuPPORTED ACROSS THE NATION by THE DEvELOPMENT OF NEW ADAPTATION SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOgy To provide a wider range of choices for the national climate adaptation program and its partners throughout the United States, a new and sustained adaptation research effort will be needed. A lack of serious commitment to adaptation efforts has led to in- adequate research support to provide the science and technology needed to support appropriate and effective decisions (NRC, 2009a,b, 2010b), and improving this situa- tion should be a high national priority. Advances in science and technology are needed to support adaptation analysis and assessment, to identify and develop adaptation options, and to strengthen adaptation management and implementation. Many of these advances are needed very quickly to inform such issues as identifying potential thresholds or tipping points for climate change impacts as they relate to limits of adaptation; prospects and approaches for encouraging voluntary relocation from high-vulnerability areas; and climate change adaptation in a context of sustainability that considers multiple threats, stresses, and opportunities. Adaptation will be required not only to address changes in climate conditions but also societyâs climate change responses, including emissions-limiting actions, adaptation actions, and potential geoengineering options. Recommendation 4: As part of an integrated climate change research initiative, the federal government should undertake a significant climate change adapta- tion research effort designed to provide a reliable foundation for adapting to the impacts of climate change in a larger context of sustainability. This initiative should: â¢ Be designed as a partnership between the federal government, other levels of government, the private sector and other NGOs, and the academic research community; â¢ Be developed and implemented in coordination with international partners, state and local governments, NGOs, tribes, and the private sector; â¢ Consider and be responsive to voluntary, independent adaptation as well as planned adaptation; â¢ Explicitly include monitoring of ongoing experiences with implementing adaptation to build a clearinghouse for âbest practicesâ that allows sharing of lessons learned; and â¢ Expedite advances in adaptation science and technology that show promise in reducing vulnerabilities to climate change impacts of particular national and regional concern in the coming decades.
Conclusions and Recommendations gOvERNMENTS AT ALL LEvELS, THE PRIvATE SECTOR, AND NONgOvERNMENTAL ORgANIzATIONS SHOuLD INITIATE ADAPTATION PLANNINg AND IMPLEMENTATION As indicated above, a national adaptation strategy should incorporate knowledge, views, and roles of all aspects of the U.S. economy, society, and environment. The panel chose to focus much of its discussion and analysis on federal, state, and local govern- ments, but it also recommends actions on the part of nongovernmental partners in the national effort. Recommendation 5: Adaptation planning and implementation at the state and tribal levels should be initiated regardless of whether the federal government provides the necessary leadership. States and tribes will need to take a sig- nificant leadership and coordination role, especially in areas where cities and other local interests have not yet established adaptation efforts. State and tribal governments should develop and implement climate change adaptation plans to guide policy and coordinate with federal, regional, local, and private-sector efforts pursuant to the national climate adaptation strategy. These plans should consider: â¢ A comprehensive assessment, in coordination with other jurisdictions, of cli- mate change impacts, vulnerabilities, and adaptation needs in the context of long-term sustainability objectives; â¢ A requirement that state and tribal agencies build adaptation objectives into their operations, budgets, planning processes, and programsâincluding the revisions of environmental review guidelines for state and tribal projects to consider adaptation to climate change vulnerabilities; â¢ Revisions to state and tribal engineering standards to account for current and anticipated future climate changes; â¢ Provision of incentives for private-sector and NGO participation in solution development; â¢ Elimination of public subsidies and incentives for maladaptive activities such as development in high-risk areas; â¢ Support for the design, implementation, and evaluation of early warning and response systems for climate-sensitive health outcomes; and â¢ Provisions for adequate support (financial and technical) to protect ecosystem services and critical habitats. Recommendation 6: Local governments should develop and implement climate change adaptation plans pursuant to the national climate adaptation strategy,
A D A P T I N G T O T H E I M PA C T S O F C L I M AT E C H A N G E in consultation with the broad range of stakeholders in their communities. These plans should consider: â¢ Including an assessment of (1) vulnerabilities of all municipal infrastructure to climate change impacts; (2) land use plans, ordinances, and codes to identify opportunities to enhance preparedness for climate change impacts; and (3) resource, staffing, and training needs that would be required to build capacity for adaptation to climate change; â¢ Building adaptation and mitigation objectives into the operations, budgets, and planning processes and programs of cities and other local governments; â¢ Including a financial assessment of potential adaptation-related infrastructure needs and operating costs and evaluation of the potential impact of adapta- tion investments on revenues; â¢ Designing adaptations to reduce vulnerability to climate change impacts as well as to promote sustainability at a regional level; â¢ Establishing ongoing monitoring and assessment processes as well as goals and principles for future decision making with respect to adapting to the im- pacts of climate change; and â¢ Including a public education and engagement component focusing on local climate change impacts and adaptation issues. Recommendation 7: The private sector, NgOs, and society at large should assess their own vulnerabilities and risks due to climate change and actively engage and partner with the respective governmental adaptation planning efforts to help build the nationâs adaptive capacity. THE uNITED STATES SHOuLD PROMOTE ADAPTATION IN AN INTERNATIONAL CONTExT In Chapter 6, the panel considers how U.S. choices on adaptation relate to the interna- tional context, including the following perspectives: â¢ Other than a general recognition of the strategic components of adaptation, the conversation about the U.S. role in international adaptation activities is just beginning. Significant policy questions need to be addressed from the perspective of developing a U.S. adaptation program that recognizes the global context. â¢ If climate change adaptation objectives are integrated into a range of for- eign policy, development assistance, and capacity-building efforts, it is likely that the United States will improve its ability to influence a broader range of 0
Conclusions and Recommendations outcomes, including economic and national security considerations. There are multiple ways in which both the opportunities and the risks of climate change are linked across the globe. â¢ The national security community has identified climate change as a significant factor within the strategic landscape. The potential that climate change will contribute to instability, tension, and conflict as well as increased demand for humanitarian relief has been recognized. â¢ Current institutions do not provide sufficient support for global adaptation at local scales, where adaptation facilities are needed. They also do not pro- vide sufficiently for exploration of innovative partnerships, techniques, and technologies that could support adaptation action, communication, and trust building between the United States and other countries. New institutions are needed to host international conversations about adaptation, limiting GHG emissions, capacity building, science needs, and geoengineering issues on a peer-to-peer basis. Recommendation 8: The united States should engage as a major player in ad- aptation activities at the global scale. The united States should support the establishment of a collaborative, sufficiently funded, international adaptation program that can be sustained over time. The program should: â¢ Support adaptation projects, capacity building, and sustainable development in countries that have high vulnerability to climate change impacts; â¢ Include innovative mechanisms for engagement and information exchange and build global adaptation networks; and â¢ Help coordinate the efforts of public, private, and nongovernmental organiza- tions in international adaptation projects. Recommendation 9: Adaptation objectives should be incorporated into exist- ing u.S. government programs and policies that have international components, such as (1) agriculture, trade policy, and food security; (2) energy policy; (3) transportation policy; (4) international aid and disaster relief; (5) national secu- rity; and (6) intellectual property agreements for technology transfer to other countries. EARLy OPPORTuNITIES FOR SuCCESS The decision process about investments in adaptation will evolve and new decision needs will emerge in the future as information about climate change impacts im- proves and experience reveals the effectiveness of various early adaptation efforts.
A D A P T I N G T O T H E I M PA C T S O F C L I M AT E C H A N G E This does not mean, however, that no actions should be taken now. In the short term, adaptation might consist of incorporating considerations of climate change impacts into many current policies and resource management practices, a process also referred to as âmainstreamingâ adaptation into current policies. Recommendation 10: Federal, state, and local entities and the private sector should take actions now to address current, known climate change impacts and risks and/or to provide effective risk management at a relatively low cost. In fact, based on the panelâs analysis in previous chapters, a number of adaptation op- tions are available that could be implemented in the short term as risk-management strategies in ways that would not only bring significant near-term benefits but also offer the potential for significant long-term benefits at a relatively modest cost. Ex- amples of actions or mainstreaming adaptation that could be implemented to address major pressing needs within the near-term include the following: National Priorities â¢ Initiate revisions to the National Flood Insurance Program to require that floodplain maps used for federal flood insurance, state and local regulation, disaster planning, and individual warning take future climate change vulner- abilities into account by reflecting projected changes in sea level rise, storm surge, rainfall-runoff intensity, and flood volumes. â¢ Revise federal, state, and professional engineering standards to reflect current and anticipated future climate changes, and require the use of these standards as a condition for federal investments in infrastructure. â¢ Incorporate adaptation requirements into routine planning, permitting, and investment decisions by existing federal, state, and local authorities. â¢ Establish a database of best practices for adaptation in all sectors. For Federal Programs â¢ Coastal. Strengthen the ability of the Coastal Zone Management program to address climate impacts by increasing support for the development and implementation of state coastal adaptation plans and strategies. â¢ Disaster assistance. Incorporate climate change adaptation considerations into all federally funded post-disaster redevelopment assistance provided to state and local governments.
Conclusions and Recommendations â¢ Environmental impact assessment. Reexamine and revise guidelines (National Environmental Policy Act and state equivalents) to consider climate change impacts, vulnerabilities, and adaptation options as part of the environmental impact analyses. â¢ Foreign assistance. Incorporate adaptation and sustainability objectives into foreign aid planning and assistance, including the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance and U.S. Agency for International Development. â¢ National security. Assign responsibility for overseeing the impacts of climate change on national security and for adaptations that increase security. For Selected Sectors â¢ Agriculture. Review current state and federal regulations and incentives to identify existing requirements and practices that serve as disincentives to adaptation, and identify ways to amend these statutes and policies. â¢ Ecosystems. Implement best management practices (e.g., in fisheries, forests, land use, wetlands) to sustain ecosystem services in a changing climate and to incorporate adaptive management principles in natural resource manage- ment plans to reduce ecosystem vulnerabilities. â¢ Energy supply and use. Develop a plan of action with private-sector and state and local partners to enhance the resilience of thermal electric power plants and the U.S. energy grid to climate change impacts and to protect or relocate vulnerable coastal energy infrastructures. â¢ Human health and society. Support the design, implementation, and evaluation of early warning and response systems for climate-sensitive health outcomes, including extreme weather events and infectious disease outbreaks. â¢ Transportation. Revise federal, state, and professional engineering standards to reflect current and anticipated future climate changes and require their use as a condition for federal investments in infrastructure; also, incorporate climate change in the planning process. â¢ Urban. Initiate an integrated assessment of urban infrastructure to determine vulnerabilities to climate change impacts and adaptation needs. One ap- proach that vulnerable communities and states might consider is adopting the International Building Code (International Code Council, 2009). â¢ Water. Provide funding, science, and policy support for the collaborative development of regional water management response strategies to address projected changes in water resources and impacts of extreme events.
A D A P T I N G T O T H E I M PA C T S O F C L I M AT E C H A N G E In conclusion, although the likely magnitude of climate change impacts is indeed daunting, and the stakes are high, there are a large number of adaptation options that should be initiated now because they are relatively inexpensive, low risk, consistent with sustainability principles, and have multiple co-benefits. The recommendations listed above provide a solid framework within which the nation can initiate a national effort to adapt to the impacts of a changing climate. Along with the near-term activi- ties, it is important to consider adaptation to climate change impacts as a process that will require sustained commitment and a durable yet flexible strategy for several decades to come.