US needs to pay more attention to adaptation to climate change

A report issued today from University Corporation for Atmospheric Research on the National Climate Adaptation Summit (in May) addresses the need for adaptation to climate change.

Even with mitigation efforts, climate change will continue to unfold for decades due to the long atmospheric lifetime of past greenhouse-gas emissions and the gradual release of excess heat that has built up in the oceans. Climate change adaptation is thus a necessity for our Nation and the world.

Their recommendations include

a limited number of pilot projects to experiment with different adaptation approaches and methods. Such pilot projects should be monitored and carefully evaluated to facilitate “learning by doing,” or adaptive adaptation.

and education to produce

climate-savvy leaders and workforce required for effective climate adaptation planning.

The Executive Summary

The National Climate Adaptation Summit was in response to a conversation the President’s Science and Technology Advisor, Dr. John Holdren, had with the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) Board members and took place in Washington, DC, on May 25-27, 2010. This event brought together more than 180 users and providers of climate adaptation information to examine the needs, knowledge, and roles required for effective adaptation to climate change. The goal of the Summit was to inform federal, state, regional, and local climate adaptation efforts, including the planning of the federal Interagency Climate Change Adaptation Task Force and the U.S. Global Change Research Program.

There was a strong consensus among participants that wise adaptation measures can help minimize the negative impacts of a changing climate on our Nation’s communities, businesses, ecosystems, and citizens. Effective adaptation will require improved coordination within agencies and among agencies, states, regions and the private sector. It also calls for new methods of communication; sharing of best practices; budget increases in a few key areas; research to produce needed missing information; development of new partnerships; and ‘learning by doing’, or adaptive adaptation.

The Summit identified seven priorities for near-term action:

Developing an overarching national strategy to guide federal climate change adaptation programs. This strategy should establish agency roles, clear goals and metrics, and better mechanisms for coordinating federal and non-federal activities.

Improving coordination of federal plans and programs. Strong management from the executive branch is needed to break down barriers, integrate planning, move funding into the highest priority areas, and maintain priorities across the multitude of involved agencies.

Creating a federal climate information portal. This would provide single-point access to data from all relevant federal agencies and programs and would evolve over time into a more “national” portal with information about relevant non-federal efforts.

Creating a clearinghouse of best practices and toolkits for adaptation. Such an effort could assist regions and sectors with similar adaptation challenges in learning from each other and explore the intersection of adaptation and mitigation.

Including support for assessment in USGCRP agency budgets. This would enable the regular national-scale assessments of climate change impacts that are required by law.

Increasing funding for research on vulnerability and impacts, including economic analyses, and pilot projects that join local, state, and regional governments and academic institutions to develop and test adaptation measures and tools.

Initiating a regional series of ongoing climate adaptation forums. The goal would be to integrate planning, communication, and coordination of activities across various agencies and U.S. regions.

The event was also webcast.

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