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Incorporating Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation in Environmental Impact Assessments: Opportunities and Challenges

National governments and development agencies have invested considerable effort in recent years to develop methodologies and tools to screen their projects for the risks posed by climate change. However, these tools have largely been developed by the climate change community and their application within actual project settings remains quite limited. An alternate and complementary approach would be to examine the feasibility of incorporating consideration of climate change impacts and adaptation within existing modalities for project design, approval, and implementation.

Taking The Pulse of Our Planet: The USA National Phenology Network

The USA National Phenology Network (USA-NPN; www.usanpn.org) is an emerging and exciting partnership focused on phenology (the timing of life cycle events of plants and animals, such as flowering or migration). 

Changes in spatial and temporal patterns of phenology can be used to understand how plants, animals and landscapes respond to environmental variation, and can facilitate the development of tools to facilitate human adaptation to ongoing and potential future climate change. 

National Roadmap for Responding to Climate Change

USDA recently released the 2010-2015 Strategic Plan that guides its agencies towards achieving several goals including Strategic Goal 2 - Ensure our national forests and private working lands are conserved, restored, and made more resilient to climate change, while enhancing our water resources. This goal has several objectives. Objective 2.2 is to lead efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change. The performance measures under this objective seek to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by the U.S. agricultural sector, increase  the amount of carbon sequestered on U.S.

Listing of Coral Reef Species under the U.S. Endangered Species Act

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) petitioned to list 83 species of coral under the Endangered Species Act. The petition listed greenhouse gas emissions as the primary cause of increased water temperatures, ocean acidification, increased frequency and intensity of coastal storms, and sea level rise, all of which combine to threaten corals. Two coral species, elkhorn (Acropora palmata) and staghorn (A. cervicornis), were listed as threatened for related reasons in 2006.

Using a Precautionary Approach to Manage North Pacific Fisheries Under Uncertainty

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council is authorized to manage the fisheries within the Exclusive Economic Zone of the State of Alaska, which includes the Gulf of Alaska, Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands, and the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas. The Council has adopted a precautionary approach to commercial fishing opportunities that may arise as a result of climate change in the Arctic, including prohibiting certain activities until the best science becomes available.

USFS Climate Change Resource Center (CCRC)

Tool Overview: 

The Climate Change Resource Center (CCRC) is a reference Web site for resource managers and decisionmakers who need information and tools to address climate change in planning and project implementation. Changing climates have already catalyzed changes in environments throughout the United States, and future effects are expected to be greater. Although future scenarios are daunting, managers can do much to promote adaptation to climate change and encourage reduction of human effects on climate.

U.S. Department of the Interior Climate Change Strategy

In addition to mitigating greenhouse gas emissions from infrastructure and equipment, the Department of the Interior is also taking adaptation measures. One such example is the creation of a department-wide strategy to address climate change. A 2009 Secretarial Order called for the creation of an Energy and Climate Change Council that would oversee the establishment of eight regional Climate Science Centers and 21 Landscape Conservation Cooperatives.