2021 Climate Adaptation Action Plan - Smithsonian Institution

Smithsonian Institution
Posted on: 12/22/2021 - Updated on: 8/23/2022

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As one of the foremost research complexes in the world, the Smithsonian has long kept climate change, sustainability, and stewardship of the planet a focus of our scientific research as well as our operational decisions — a focus that spans across all aspects of the Institution for a truly One Smithsonian approach.

This Climate Action Plan details our Institution-wide efforts to assess our vulnerabilities, enhance our resiliency, research the Earth system, adapt to a changing climate and its effects, and educate our staf and the public on the climate crisis. Because the Smithsonian is such a multi-faceted organization, these initiatives are not siloed into certain portions of the Institution. Instead, many areas, specifically our public programs, our research, our collections, our administrative functions, and our facilities infrastructure, which touch every part of the Institution, are all vital to our ongoing approach in facing climate change.

Smithsonian’s Climate Action Plan, combined with our Climate Change Policy, are the backbone of how we are and will address these urgent concerns of preparing for and mitigating against the impacts of climate change as well as our steps to create a more sustainable future. From developing programs and exhibits specifically targeting interconnected and changing Earth systems for our virtual and in-person visitors, to engaging staff in the ways they too can be part of the climate solutions, education and outreach will be a priority as it supports our overarching mission of the “increase and diffusion of knowledge.”

But knowledge alone is not enough. Action based on what we know to be our vulnerabilities will continue. Moving collections at risk of damage or destruction because of increased fooding, building food gates, developing infrastructure redundancies in case of power or telecommunication outages, and devising ways to better manage storm water are all in process. We also keep our eyes to the future as we incorporate sustainability and climate resiliency into all of our long-term plans and new projects. We’re making smart and strategic purchasing decisions and consolidating our footprint to lessen our impact. In short, we are taking every measure to protect our buildings and collections while also doing what we can to be good stewards of not just our national treasures, but our world.

As the Smithsonian’s Sustainability Officer and Director of Smithsonian Facilities, this work and its execution falls under my purview, but its success is due to the efforts of a skilled team of experts and Smithsonian units uniquely suited to face this challenge. We look forward to collaborating with the Administration on our shared goals of protecting our communities from a changing climate and will advance our plans to build a more sustainable and prepared Smithsonian.


Climate Change Action Plan August 2021. Smithsonian Institution. Presented for Review by the Federal Chief Sustainability Officer and National Climate Task Force. https://www.sustainability.gov/pdfs/si-2021-cap.pdf

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The Smithsonian Institution is the world’s largest museum, education, and research complex, with 19 museums and the National Zoo—shaping the future by preserving our heritage, discovering new knowledge, and sharing our resources with the world.

The Institution was founded in 1846 with funds from the Englishman James Smithson (1765–1829) according to his wishes “under the name of the Smithsonian Institution, an establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge.”

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