FY 2013 Federal Agency Climate Change Adaptation Plans: Summary of Research and Information Needs

In June 2013, President Obama announced his comprehensive plan for steady, responsible action to cut carbon pollution, prepare the Nation for the impacts of climate change, and lead international efforts to address climate change as a global challenge. The Plan builds on significant progress made during the Administration’s first term on all of these fronts, including those based on the ongoing scientific work of USGCRP’s 13 member-agencies, the Interagency Climate Change Adaptation Task Force in which USGCRP participates, and USGCRP’s National Climate Assessment team (see Box 1).5 The President’s plan contains a full section on the critical need to prepare for the impacts of a changing climate that are already being felt across the country, including by “ensuring that Federal operations and facilities continue to protect and serve citizens in a changing climate.”

In addition to its impacts on communities, public health, businesses, ecosystems, and a range of economic sectors, climate change poses an array of potential challenges and opportunities for Federal Government operations, programs, services, and assets.6 Abrupt and gradual climaterelated changes in sea level, permafrost thawing, extreme precipitation, intense heat waves, sea ice melt, ocean acidification, water scarcity, and an increase in the frequency and severity of climate change-influenced natural disasters are among the risks that the Federal Government needs to consider in order to continue meeting its missions for the Nation in future. Given the impacts the Nation is already experiencing, and the projected changes in climate; we now face the reality mitigation measures alone will not minimize the Nation’s risks to changes in the climate; we must also prepare for and respond to these changes in the climate. Climate change adaptation is a critical step towards ensuring the resilience of the Nation’s built infrastructure, natural resources, and human populations.

In June 2012, the Federal Government took a major step forward by requiring, for the first time, that individual agencies produce Climate Change Adaptation Plans. Under the implementation guidance of Executive Order 13514 – Federal Leadership in Environmental, Energy, and Economic Performance, each Federal agency was required to include a climate change adaptation and action plan as an appendix to its annual Strategic Sustainability Performance Plan. In these plans, agencies were asked to: (1) develop a high-level vulnerability analysis; (2) identify appropriate adaptation actions; and (3) develop an implementation plan for fiscal year 2013 (FY13). The plans were intended to help agencies identify actions to reduce and manage the harmful effects climate change and take advantage of new opportunities that climate change may bring, primarily as related to agency missions.7 Agencies consulted a number of resources as they compiled adaptation plans, and the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) was cited uniformly as one of the best resources for climate science and climate change information to support the development of agency adaptation plans and actions.

Following submission of the FY13 Agency Climate Change Adaptation Plans, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) reviewed each plan (June 2012 – January 2013) and then released the plans to the public8 (February 2013), beginning a 60-day public comment period that ended in April 2013. The agencies are now focused on implementing the actions they put forth in their plans, and preparing to update their Adaptation Plans in future years.

State of the Climate in 2015

An international, peer-reviewed publication released each summer, the State of the Climate is the authoritative annual summary of the global climate published as a supplement to the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. The report, compiled by NOAA’s Center for Weather and Climate at the National Centers for Environmental Information is based on contributions from scientists from around the world. It provides a detailed update on global climate indicators, notable weather events, and other data collected by environmental monitoring stations and instruments located on land, water, ice, and in space.

State of the Climate in 2015

This is the 26th edition of the annual assessment now known as State of the Climate. The year 2015 saw the toppling of several symbolic mileposts: notably, it was 1.0°C warmer than preindustrial times, and the Mauna Loa observatory recorded its first annual mean carbon dioxide concentration greater than 400 ppm. Beyond these more recognizable markers, trends seen in recent decades continued.

Coastal Adaptation Strategies: Case Studies

Innovative and unique solutions are being devised throughout the national park system to adapt to climate change in coastal parks. The 24 case studies in this document describe efforts at national park units in a variety of settings to prepare for and respond to climate change impacts that can take the form of either an event or a trend. Examples of these impacts include increased storminess, sea level rise, shoreline erosion, melting sea ice and permafrost, ocean acidification, warming temperatures, groundwater inundation, precipitation, and drought. The adaptation efforts described here include historic structure preservation, archeological surveys, baseline data collection and documentation, habitat restoration, engineering solutions, redesign and relocation of infrastructure, and development of broad management plans that consider climate change. Each case study also includes a point of contact for park managers to request additional information and insight.

These case studies initially were developed by park managers as part of a NPS-led coastal adaptation to climate change training hosted by Western Carolina University in May 2012. The case studies format follows the format created for EcoAdapt’s Climate Adaptation Knowledge Exchange (CAKE) database that identified a list of adaptation strategies. All case studies were updated and modified in September 2013 and March 2015 in response to a growing number of requests from coastal parks and other coastal management agencies looking for examples of climate change adaptation strategies for natural and cultural resources and assets along their ocean, lacustrine, and riverine coasts. 

Cultural Resources Inventory and Vulnerability Assessment at the Bering Land Bridge National Preserve, Alaska and Cape Krusenstern National Monument, Alaska

Location

United States
67° 7' 41.0016" N, 163° 44' 43.0008" W
US
Author Name(s): 
Dael Devenport, Frank Hays
Summary: 

Climate change has increased the vulnerability of cultural resources in coastal locations at Bering Land Bridge National Preserve and Cape Krusenstern National Monument along the northwestern Alaska coast. The Alaska Regional Office is developing and testing a GIS model that is intended to predict locations and vulnerability of these cultural resources. 

Climate Change Adaptation Action Plan: Clyde River, Nunavut

The community of Clyde River has prepared this plan to better prepare for changes that have started or might happen as a result of climate change. It is understood that this is a first step in a long journey to help the community adjust to climate change. Future steps will be based on new research, knowledge and experience obtained by the community. The plan includes three parts: the desired results [goals], the methods that will be used to achieve the desired results [strategies] and the specific steps that will be taken [an action plan]. 

Clyde River Community Climate Adaptation Plan

Location

United States
70° 28' 45.6492" N, 68° 34' 50.808" W
US
Summary: 

Clyde River, like many small communities located in Nunavut, Canada, is threatened by melting permafrost and thinning sea ice due to a warming climate. To help prepare for the adverse impacts of climate change, the Clyde River community worked with partners to develop a community adaptation plan. Projects were designed to better understand the threat sea level rise, melting permafrost and change in freshwater availability could have on the community. The lessons learned from their experience are being applied to five other communities in Nunavut to help develop adaptation plans. 

Climate Change Indicators in the United States (2014)

EPA is working with many other organizations to collect and communicate data about climate change. With help from these partners, EPA has compiled the third edition of this report, presenting 30 indicators to help readers understand observed long-term trends related to the causes and effects of climate change. In a manner accessible to all audiences, the report describes the significance of these trends and their possible consequences for people, the environment, and society. Most indicators focus on the United States, but some include global trends to provide context or a basis for comparison, or because they are intrinsically global in nature. All of the indicators presented relate to either the causes or effects of climate change, although some indicators show trends that can be more directly linked to human-induced climate change than others. EPA's indicators are based on peer-reviewed, publicly-available data from various government agencies, academic institutions, and other organizations. EPA selected these indicators based on the quality of the data and other criteria, using historical records that go back in time as far as possible without sacrificing data quality.

Climate Change and Water

The Technical Paper addresses the issue of freshwater. Sealevel rise is dealt with only insofar as it can lead to impacts on freshwater in coastal areas and beyond. Climate, freshwater, biophysical and socio-economic systems are interconnected in complex ways. Hence, a change in any one of these can induce a change in any other. Freshwater-related issues are critical in determining key regional and sectoral vulnerabilities. Therefore, the relationship between climate change and freshwater resources is of primary concern to human society and also has implications for all living species.

Climate Change Impacts in the United States: The Third National Climate Assessment

The National Climate Assessment assesses the science of climate change and its impacts across the United States, now and throughout this century. It documents climate change related impacts and responses for various sectors and regions, with the goal of better informing public and private decision-making at all levels.

A team of more than 300 experts, guided by a 60-member National Climate Assessment and Development Advisory Committee produced the full report – the largest and most diverse team to produce a U.S. climate assessment. Stakeholders involved in the development of the assessment included decision-makers from the public and private sectors, resource and environmental managers, researchers, representatives from businesses and non-governmental organizations, and the general public. More than 70 workshops and listening sessions were held, and thousands of public and expert comments on the draft report provided additional input to the process.

The assessment draws from a large body of scientific peer-reviewed research, technical input reports, and other publicly available sources; all sources meet the standards of the Information Quality Act. The report was extensively reviewed by the public and experts, including a panel of the National Academy of Sciences, the 13 Federal agencies of the U.S. Global Change Research Program, and the Federal Committee on Environment, Natural Resources, and Sustainability.

U.S. Executive Order - Preparing the United States for the Impacts of Climate Change

The Executive Order directs Federal agencies to take a series of steps to make it easier for American communities to strengthen their resilience to extreme weather and prepare for other impacts of climate change. The Federal Government has an important role to play in supporting community-based preparedness and resilience efforts by establishing policies and prioritizing investments that promote preparedness, protecting critical infrastructure and public resources, supporting science and research needed to prepare for climate impacts, and ensuring that Federal operations and facilities continue to protect and serve citizens in a changing climate.

The Executive Order directs Federal agencies to:

  • Modernize Federal programs to support climate-resilient investments: Agencies will examine their policies and programs and find ways to make it easier for cities and towns to build smarter and stronger. Agencies will identify and remove any barriers to resilience-focused actions and investments– for example, policies that encourage communities to rebuild to past standards after disasters instead of to stronger standards – including through agency grants, technical assistance, and other programs in sectors from transportation and water management to conservation and disaster relief.
  • Manage lands and waters for climate preparedness and resilience: America’s natural resources are critical to our Nation’s economy, health and quality of life. The E.O. directs agencies to identify changes that must be made to land- and water-related policies, programs, and regulations to strengthen the climate resilience of our watersheds, natural resources, and ecosystems, and the communities and economies that depend on them. Federal agencies will also evaluate how to better promote natural storm barriers such as dunes and wetlands, as well as how to protect the carbon sequestration benefits of forests and lands to help reduce the carbon pollution that causes climate change. 
  • Provide information, data and tools for climate change preparedness and resilience: Scientific data and insights are essential to help communities and businesses better understand and manage the risks associated with extreme weather and other impacts of climate change.  The E.O. instructs Federal agencies to work together and with information users to develop new climate preparedness tools and information that state, local, and private-sector leaders need to make smart decisions.  In keeping with the President’s Open Data initiative, agencies will also make extensive Federal climate data accessible to the public through an easy-to-use online portal.
  • Plan for climate change related risk: Recognizing the threat that climate change poses to Federal facilities, operations and programs, the E.O. builds on the first-ever set of Federal agency adaptation plans released earlier this year and directs Federal agencies to develop and implement strategies to evaluate and address their most significant climate change related risks.  

To implement these actions, the E.O. establishes an interagency Council on Climate Preparedness and Resilience, chaired by the White House and composed of more than 25 agencies. To assist in achieving the goals of the E.O., these agencies are directed to consider the recommendations of the State, Local, and Tribal Leaders Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience.