Conclusion global warming essay

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National Academies Press: OpenBook

National Academies Press: OpenBook

Adapting to the Impacts of Climate Change
(2010)

Chapter: 8 Conclusions and Recommendations


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Below is the uncorrected machine-read text of this chapter, intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text of each book. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.

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 discussed—in 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 panel’s findings and recommendations regarding the
need for a national climate change adaptation effort. It emphasizes the term “national”
rather than “federal” because adaptation is inherently diverse and disaggregated.
Adaptation options to respond to observed and projected climate change impacts
(Chapter 2) are immensely diverse; choosing “how” and “when” 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 makers—within national, state, tribal, and local
agencies and institutions, in the private sector, and nongovernmental organiza-
tions (NgOs)—should 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 America’s 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 America’s 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 America’s 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 stationary—an 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 region’s 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 nation’s 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, “national” does not mean “federal government.” 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:
• Leverage limited resources;
• Ensure equity in adaptive capacity and investments across needs and
geographies;
• Avoid redundant or conflicting projects, mandates, and guidelines;
• Improve understanding of changing conditions;
• Overcome behavior-based limitations to the capacity to adapt; and



Conclusions and Recommendations

• 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 nation’s 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, techni­
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. “Mainstreaming” 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
“Farm Bill” (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 sup­
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 climate­resilient 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 “bottom-up”
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:
• Establish leadership on climate change adaptation at the highest levels of
government;
• 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;
• Focus on reducing current and future vulnerabilities to climate change im-
pacts, promoting sustainability, and limiting risks in regions and sectors;
• Aim to develop a coordination mechanism with state and local governments,
NGOs, tribes, and the private sector;
• 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;
• 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;
• Focus adaptation efforts on long- and short-term benefits, and capitalize on
opportunities to adapt now that may become increasingly difficult in the
future;
• Encourage private-sector investments and the development of technologies
for adaptation solutions;
• 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;
• Address serious needs to improve capacities in major institutions, including
staff resources in federal government offices and agencies, to connect adapta-
tion knowledge with society’s needs;
• Establish a process to set goals for U.S. policy for climate change adaptation in
the international arena; and
• 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. § 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 conditions—as 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:
• Consider guidelines, minimal standards, and review criteria for adaptation
planning and implementation;
• 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;
• Ensure that a consistent methodology is applied in evaluating plans and set-
ting funding priorities;



Conclusions and Recommendations

• Consider mechanisms to avoid conflicts among federal, state, and local plans
through a consultation process;
• 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;
• Provide incentives for private-sector participation in solution development;
• 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);
• 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
• 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 program’s support service should:
• 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
• 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 society’s 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:
• Be designed as a partnership between the federal government, other levels of
government, the private sector and other NGOs, and the academic research
community;
• Be developed and implemented in coordination with international partners,
state and local governments, NGOs, tribes, and the private sector;
• Consider and be responsive to voluntary, independent adaptation as well as
planned adaptation;
• Explicitly include monitoring of ongoing experiences with implementing
adaptation to build a clearinghouse for “best practices” that allows sharing of
lessons learned; and
• 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:
• 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;
• A requirement that state and tribal agencies build adaptation objectives into
their operations, budgets, planning processes, and programs—including the
revisions of environmental review guidelines for state and tribal projects to
consider adaptation to climate change vulnerabilities;
• Revisions to state and tribal engineering standards to account for current and
anticipated future climate changes;
• Provision of incentives for private-sector and NGO participation in solution
development;
• Elimination of public subsidies and incentives for maladaptive activities such
as development in high-risk areas;
• Support for the design, implementation, and evaluation of early warning and
response systems for climate-sensitive health outcomes; and
• 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:
• 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;
• Building adaptation and mitigation objectives into the operations, budgets,
and planning processes and programs of cities and other local governments;
• 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;
• Designing adaptations to reduce vulnerability to climate change impacts as
well as to promote sustainability at a regional level;
• 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
• 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 nation’s 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:
• 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.
• 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.
• 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.
• 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:
• Support adaptation projects, capacity building, and sustainable development
in countries that have high vulnerability to climate change impacts;
• Include innovative mechanisms for engagement and information exchange
and build global adaptation networks; and
• 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 “mainstreaming” 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 panel’s 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

• 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.
• 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.
• Incorporate adaptation requirements into routine planning, permitting, and
investment decisions by existing federal, state, and local authorities.
• Establish a database of best practices for adaptation in all sectors.

For Federal Programs

• 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.
• Disaster assistance. Incorporate climate change adaptation considerations into
all federally funded post-disaster redevelopment assistance provided to state
and local governments.



Conclusions and Recommendations

• 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.
• 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.
• National security. Assign responsibility for overseeing the impacts of climate
change on national security and for adaptations that increase security.

For Selected Sectors

• 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.
• 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.
• 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.
• 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.
• 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.
• 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).
• 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.



Next: References »


Adapting to the Impacts of Climate Change


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Across the United States, impacts of climate change are already evident. Heat waves have become more frequent and intense, cold extremes have become less frequent, and patterns of rainfall are likely changing. The proportion of precipitation that falls as rain rather than snow has increased across the western United States and Arctic sea ice has been reduced significantly. Sea level has been rising faster than at any time in recent history, threatening the natural and built environments on the coasts. Even if emissions of greenhouse gases were substantially reduced now, climate change and its resulting impacts would continue for some time to come.

To date, decisions related to the management and protection of the nation’s people, resources, and infrastructure have been based on records in the recent past, when climate was relatively stable. Adapting to the Impacts of Climate Change, part of the congressionally requested America’s Climate Choices suite of studies, calls for a new paradigm-one that considers a range of possible future climate conditions and impacts that may be well outside the realm of past experience.

Adaptation requires actions from many decision makers in federal, state, tribal, and local governments; the private sector; non-governmental organizations; and community groups. However, current efforts are hampered by a lack of solid information about the benefits, costs, and effectiveness of various adaptation options; climate information on regional and local scales; and a lack of coordination. Adapting to the Impacts of Climate Change calls for a national adaptation strategy that provides needed technical and scientific resources, incentives to begin adaptation planning, guidance across jurisdictions, shared lessons learned, and support of scientific research to expand knowledge of impacts and adaptation.

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