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Informing an Effective Response to Climate Change, Report in Brief

Informing an Effective Response to Climate Change, Report in Brief

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Published by earthandlife
Demand for information to support climate-related decisions has grown as people, organizations, and governments have moved ahead with plans and actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to adapt to the impacts of climate change. Today, however, the nation lacks comprehensive, robust, and credible information systems to inform climate choices and evaluate their effectiveness. This report examines information needs and calls for the federal government to build upon its existing efforts and those of state and local government, the private sector and citizens by establishing clear federal leadership, responsibility, and coordination for climate related decisions, climate risk management, information systems, and services.

In order to meet national needs for state-of-the-art information on climate change, its impacts, and response options, a coordinated system of climate services is needed; such a system would require the involvement of multiple agencies and regional expertise, with very clear leadership at the highest level of government. A federally supported and credible system for greenhouse gas monitoring, reporting, verification, and management from multiple sources and at multiple scales is also a priority. The majority of Americans are concerned about climate change and are willing to respond, but would like more information. Therefore, the report also recommends the creation of a national task force on climate communication and education.

Demand for information to support climate-related decisions has grown as people, organizations, and governments have moved ahead with plans and actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to adapt to the impacts of climate change. Today, however, the nation lacks comprehensive, robust, and credible information systems to inform climate choices and evaluate their effectiveness. This report examines information needs and calls for the federal government to build upon its existing efforts and those of state and local government, the private sector and citizens by establishing clear federal leadership, responsibility, and coordination for climate related decisions, climate risk management, information systems, and services.

In order to meet national needs for state-of-the-art information on climate change, its impacts, and response options, a coordinated system of climate services is needed; such a system would require the involvement of multiple agencies and regional expertise, with very clear leadership at the highest level of government. A federally supported and credible system for greenhouse gas monitoring, reporting, verification, and management from multiple sources and at multiple scales is also a priority. The majority of Americans are concerned about climate change and are willing to respond, but would like more information. Therefore, the report also recommends the creation of a national task force on climate communication and education.

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Published by: earthandlife on Dec 08, 2010
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state, and local policies thathas prompted many state and business leaders to call for thedevelopment of a more predict-able and coherent policyenvironment at the federallevel. This report, part of thecongressionally requestedAmerica’s Climate Choicessuite of studies, identies thetypes of decisions that need to be made about climate changeand assesses the
 
informationand reporting systems neededto both inform and evaluateresponses.
Framework for Measuring Progress
Although the many non-federal efforts toreduce emissions and/or adapt to futureclimate changes carry considerable potentialto reduce risks related to climate change, thereis currently no comprehensive way to assessthe effectiveness of those efforts. Even thefederal response is difcult to evaluate asthere is no clear, accessible, and coordinatedroadmap on federal responsibilities and policies. In addition, the number of agencies beginning to respond to climate change hasexpanded far beyond the core research func-tions of the U.S. Global Change Research program to include agencies such as thosewith responsibility for infrastructure, security,and housing. The federal government shouldlearn from the different approaches to climaterelated decision-making used by other levelsof government and the private sector, and
A
cross the nation, people, businesses, organiza-tions, and governmentsare making decisions inresponse to climate change. Asof June 2010, twenty-threestates have established targetsfor reducing greenhouse gasemissions. A number of major cities, including Los Angelesand New York, have alsoannounced strong emissionreduction plans. Private compa-nies are taking signicantsteps to reduce their carbonfootprints and pursue newlow-carbon markets. Citizens are makingdecisions about whether to make their homesand transportation modes more energy ef-cient, and also whether to support climate andenergy policies.Similarly, plans to adapt to the impacts of climate change are also underway. Municipalmanagers and resource managers are amongthose on the front lines, considering how arange of potential climate impacts might affectthe resources, infrastructure, and people they protect and manage. Alaskans face imminentadaptation choices as some villages threatened by sea-level rise and other consequences of climate change consider relocating. Industriesthat will be affected by climate change—for example, insurance and agriculture—areassessing potential effects on operations,supply chains, and products.The diverse climate change responses todate have resulted in a patchwork of regional,
Demand for information to support climate-related decisions has grownrapidly as people, organizations, and governments have moved aheadwith plans and actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to adaptto the impacts of climate change. Today, however, the nation lackscomprehensive, robust, and credible information systems to inform climate choices and evaluatetheir effectiveness. This report examines information needs and recommends ways the federalgovernment can better inform responses by enhancing climate change and greenhouse gasinformation and reporting systems and by improving climate communication and education.
Informing an EffectiveResponse to Climate Change
SOURCE: USDA, photo by Scott Bauer 
 
avoid unnecessarily preempting effective measuresalready taken.
To provide a policy framework that promoteseffective responses at all levels of American society, the federal government should build on itsexisting efforts and establish clear federal leader- ship, responsibility, and coordination for climaterelated decisions, information systems, and  services.
This could include aggregating anddisseminating “best practices” through a web-basedclearinghouse, and creating ongoing assessments toenable regular exchange of information.
Need for Adaptive Management
Because many climate-related decisions mustaddress and incorporate uncertainty and the expec-tation of surprises, decision makers need to assessthe level of acceptable risk, much as they do withother personal or business decisions, such as savingfor retirement, buying insurance, investing ininfrastructure, or launching new products. Most people recognize the need to act despite uncertainty.Decision makers can benet from a systematic anditerative framework for responding to climatechange, in which decisions and policies can berevised in light of new information and experience;information and reporting systems allow for ongoingevaluation of responses to climate risks.
The report recommends that decision makers implement aniterative risk management strategy to manageclimate decisions. Federal agencies should review and revise risk insurance programs; private rms should consider climate change risk disclosure.
Systems and Services to SupportDecision Making
There is a growing demand for better informa-tion on climate change. Some of this demand is theresult of new regulatory or reporting structures, suchas state and regional greenhouse gas trading schemesor EPA requirements. In addition, there is increasingconcern that climate change may already be affectinglocal water resources, ecosystems, and health.To meet this demand, good information systemsand services are needed. Without such systems,decision makers cannot evaluate whether particular  policies and actions are achieving their goals or should be modied. Unfortunately, dissemination of climate information is often inadequate.
This report emphasizes that information should be tailored touser needs, provided at space and timescales to support decision-making, communicated clearly,and accompanied by decision support tools that allow exploration of alternative pathways.
 
Climate Services
Decision makers are now expecting anddemanding up-to-date and reliable climate informa-tion to integrate into management decisions, such asthose listed in Box 1. Climate services should providethe essential information on climate conditions,variability, and change needed for effective decisionmaking. Various forms of climate services are already planned or provided by federal agencies, includingclimate service and outreach programs at NOAA,DOI and USDA, as well as information provided by private consultants and state climatologists.
 In order to meet National needs for state-of-the-art information on climate change, its impacts, and response options, a coordinated system of climate services is needed 
. Core elements of such a serviceare outlined in Box 2. In the panel’s judgment, nosingle government agency or centralized unit can perform all the functions required; a system thatinvolves multiple agencies and regional expertise isneeded. Aligning the roles of federal agencies for successful climate services will require very clear leadership at the highest level of government andongoing evaluation.
Box 1. Examples of Climate Information Needs
Hydroelectric dam managers
Impacts of climate change on traditional planning parameters, for example, the “100-year ood”
Impacts of projected changes in temperature and precipitation on local watersheds
Fisheries managers
Impacts of modest changes or shifts in climateconditions on sheries resources and productivity
Impacts of climate change in conjunction withother environmental stressors
U.S. Navy
Ongoing and rapid changes in the Arctic region
Higher spatial and temporal resolution of climateinformation
Transportation managers
Linkages between sea level rise and erosion,ooding, and damage to infrastructure, to support10 to 30 year planning efforts
Businesses
Effects of climate change on risk disclosure; product supply chain
Public Health Ofcials
Long-term climate impacts on major disease vectors,air quality, and extreme weather forecasts.
 
Greenhouse Gas Information Systems
A key issue in climate negotiations and climate policy is the ability to monitor, report, and verifyemissions of greenhouse gases. Today, the diversityof greenhouse gas standards, methods, and reportingsystems, which are often geared toward specicapplications, has created confusion for consumers, businesses, and policy makers. High-quality,harmonized information on emissions is needed todetect trends, verify emissions reduction claims by public and private organizations, develop policies tomanage greenhouse gases, and to inform citizens.
The report recommends a federally supported  system for greenhouse gas monitoring, reporting,verication, and management from multiple sources and at multiple scales.
The system should build on existing efforts and include a uniedgreenhouse gas emission accounting protocol andregistry. The system should be supported and veri-ed through high quality scientic research andmonitoring systems, and be designed to supportevaluations of policies implemented to limit green-house gas emissions.
Consumer Information on Reducing Emissions
Consumers and businesses play an importantrole in the national response to climate change bychoosing to reduce their energy use and selecting products or services with lower emissions of green-house gases. Tools for informing consumer decisions include smart billing and meters that provide feedback, and appliance ratings that predictenergy use. Those tools, coupled with incentives, canfoster changes in behavior.
The federal government  should review and promote credible and easilyunderstood standards and labels for energy ef-ciency and carbon/greenhouse gas information. Information about the International Context 
The world is connected by the ow of goods,materials, food products, and more. Climate-relatedinformation from other countries is essential to U.S.climate choices for reasons that include: 1) theeconomic and market couplings of the U.S. with therest of the world; 2) shared water and other naturalresources; 3) disease spread and human health; 4)humanitarian relief efforts; and 5) human andnational security. For example, many U.S. farmers’incomes are sensitive to climate impacts on exportmarkets.
The federal government should support the collection and analysis of relevant international information about climate change and its impacts.
Improving Communication andEducation
The climate-related decisions that society willconfront over the coming decades will require aninformed and engaged public and an educationsystem that provides students with the knowledge tomake informed choices. Although nearly allAmericans have now heard of climate change, manyhave yet to understand the full implications of theissue and the opportunities and risks that lie in thesolutions. Nonetheless, national surveys demonstratea clear public desire for more information aboutclimate change and how it might affect local commu-nities. A majority of Americans want the governmentto take action in response to climate change and arewilling to take action themselves.
Box 2. Summary of Core Climate Service Functions
1. A user-centered focus that responds to the decisionmaking needs of government and other actors atnational, regional, and local scales;2. Research on user needs, response options, effectiveinformation delivery mechanisms, and processes for sustained interaction with multiple stakeholders;3. Enhanced observations and analyses designedspecically to provide timely, credible, authoritative,and regionally useful information on climate changeand vulnerability, and effectiveness of responses;4. Trustworthy and timely climate modeling to supportfederal decision making about limiting emissionsand adaptation;5. A central and accessible web portal of informationthat includes a system for sharing response strategiesand access to decision support tools;6. Capacity building and training for linking knowledgeto action across the nation;7. An international information component.
The Carbon Counter, a 20-meter billboard in New York City, displays an estimate of increasing global green-house gas emissions. SOURCE: Deutsche Bank.

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