Creating a National Adaptation Strategy for the United States: The Interagency Climate Change Adaptation Task Force

Created: 12/17/2010 - Updated: 3/02/2020


In October 2010, the U.S. Interagency Climate Change Adaptation Task Force released a series of recommendations to President Obama on how federal agencies could coordinate and collaborate on a national adaptation strategy. The Task Force released two progress reports in 2010 and 2011, and plans to continue to support implementation of the recommendations. This process represents the first steps towards a coordinated strategy for federal adaptation action on climate change.


The Interagency Climate Change Adaptation Task Force, initiated in 2009, is co-chaired by the White House Council on Environmental Quality, the Office of Science and Technology Policy, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. In October 2009, President Obama signed Executive Order 13514 requiring the Task Force to develop adaptation recommendations by 2010.


The Task Force also created working groups to address the prospective ability of federal agencies to collaborate on adaptation responses. These groups were formed to address adaptation options in federal agencies and develop recommendations for planning and implementation focused on Adaptation Science, Agency Adaptation Planning, Science Inputs to Policy, Insurance Adaptation, Water Resources Adaptation, Communications and Outreach, Urban, Health, International Resilience, and Plants, Fish, and Wildlife. The working groups held over 20 listening sessions to solicit input and recommendations from stakeholders. For example, the Water Resources Adaptation working group, comprised of federal representatives from the Department of Interior, Environmental Protection Agency, and the Council on Environmental Quality, developed the 2011 National Action Plan: Priorities for Managing Freshwater Resources in a Changing Climate. This plan includes six priority recommendations to improve and guide federally-coordinated freshwater conservation and management in light of climate change: (1) create a planning process for water resources management adaptation; (2) improve information access to support decision making; (3) assess vulnerability of water resources; (4) improve water use efficiency; (5) support Integrated Water Resources Management; and (6) increase training and outreach efforts.

In March 2010, an Interim Progress Report was released for public comment. The report focused on proposed key components to a national adaptation strategy, including:

  • Integration of Science into Adaptation Decisions and Policy
  • Communications and Capacity Building
  • Coordination and Collaboration
  • Prioritization
  • A Flexible Framework for Agencies
  • Evaluation

The final recommendations, released in October 2010, build upon these initial components. The report recommends the following actions:

  • Institutionalize adaptation as part of planning practices within agencies
  • Make certain that climate science is easily accessible to both the public and private sector
  • Coordinate agency efforts in climate change responses with respect to overlapping jurisdictions, especially with regard to water resources, public health, oceans and coasts, and communities
  • Support international adaptation efforts
  • Collaborate and coordinate with local, state, and tribal managers

The Task Force identified guiding principles for decision makers to use in developing and implementing climate change adaptation. These include:

  • Adopt Integrated Approaches: Adaptation should be incorporated into core policies, planning, practices, and programs whenever possible.
  • Prioritize the Most Vulnerable: Adaptation plans should prioritize helping people, places and infrastructure that are most vulnerable to climate impacts and be designed and implemented with meaningful involvement from all parts of society.
  • Use Best Available Science: Adaptation should be grounded in the best available scientific understanding of climate change risks, impacts, and vulnerabilities.
  • Build Strong Partnerships: Adaptation requires coordination across multiple sectors and scales and should build on the existing efforts and knowledge of a wide range of public and private stakeholders.
  • Apply Risk Management Methods and Tools: Adaptation planning should incorporate risk management methods and tools to help identify, assess, and prioritize options to reduce vulnerability to potential environmental, social, and economic implications of climate change.
  • Apply Ecosystem-based Approaches: Adaptation should, where relevant, take into account strategies to increase ecosystem resilience and protect critical ecosystem services on which humans depend to reduce vulnerability of human and natural systems to climate change.
  • Maximize Mutual Benefits: Adaptation should, where possible, use strategies that complement or directly support other related climate or environmental initiatives, such as efforts to improve disaster preparedness, promote sustainable resource management, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions including the development of cost‐effective technologies.
  • Continuously Evaluate Performance: Adaptation plans should include measureable goals and performance metrics to continuously assess whether adaptive actions are achieving desired outcomes (Task Force Report, 2010).

Outcomes and Conclusions

The Task Force has provided a series of recommendations to advance a national climate change adaptation strategy for the United States. The Task Force released a second progress report, Federal Actions for a Climate Resilient Nation, in 2011 that covers federal agency efforts to date that integrate adaptation into planning and policies, enhance community resilience to climate change, improve information sharing and coordination, and develop strategies to support natural resources sustainability in a changing climate. The next steps for the Task Force are to improve coordination between and among agencies and support the implementation of agency plans. Another progress report is expected in March 2014.


Information collected from online resources. Updated 10/12/12.


Gregg, R. M. (2010). Creating a National Adaptation Strategy for the United States: The Interagency Climate Change Adaptation Task Force [Case study on a project of the White House Council on Environmental Quality]. Product of EcoAdapt's State of Adaptation Program. Retrieved from CAKE:… (Last updated October 2012)

Project Contact(s)

The Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) coordinates Federal environmental efforts and works closely with agencies and other White House offices in the development of environmental policies and initiatives. CEQ was established within the Executive Office of the President by Congress as part of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) and additional responsibilities were provided by the Environmental Quality Improvement Act of 1970.

Congress established the Office of Science and Technology Policy in 1976 with a broad mandate to advise the President and others within the Executive Office of the President on the effects of science and technology on domestic and international affairs. The 1976 Act also authorizes OSTP to lead interagency efforts to develop and implement sound science and technology policies and budgets, and to work with the private sector, state and local governments, the science and higher education communities, and other nations toward this end.

NOAA is an agency that enriches life through science. Our reach goes from the surface of the sun to the depths of the ocean floor as we work to keep citizens informed of the changing environment around them. From daily weather forecasts, severe storm warnings and climate monitoring to fisheries management, coastal restoration and supporting marine commerce, NOAA’s products and services support economic vitality and affect more than one-third of America’s gross domestic product.


Scale of Project
Community / Local
Multilateral / Transboundary
National / Federal
Regional / Subnational
State / Provincial
Tribal / First Nation
Sector Addressed
Climate Justice
Conservation / Restoration
Development (socioeconomic)
Disaster Risk Management
Education / Outreach
Land Use Planning
Public Health
Rural / Indigenous Livelihoods
Tourism / Recreation
Transportation / Infrastructure
Water Resources
Target Climate Changes and Impacts
Air temperature
Culture / communities
Diseases or parasites
Fishery harvest
Flow patterns
Growing season
Habitat extent
Infrastructure damage
Invasive / non-native species, pests
Lake level
Ocean acidification
Oxygen concentrations (hypoxia)
Phenological shifts
Public health risks
Public safety threats
Range shifts
Salinization / Saltwater intrusion
Sea level rise
Species of concern
Storms or extreme weather events
Water quality
Water supply
Water temperature
Climate Type
5-10 years
Type of Adaptation Action/Strategy
Capacity Building
Design or reform institutions
Create new institutions
Increase organizational capacity
Coordinate planning and management
Increase / Improve public awareness, education, and outreach efforts
Conduct / Gather additional research, data, and products
Governance and Policy
Create new or enhance existing policies or regulations
Effort Stage
In progress