The Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently released a report exposing the federal government’s inability to plan for and respond to climate change. The report was requested by Senators John Kerry (D-MA) and John McCain (R-AZ).

In conjunction with the National Academies, the GAO convened a meeting of scientists, economists, and resource managers representing various agencies within the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce and Interior. The GAO report, a product of the meeting, underscored a lack of guidance for resource managers on how to integrate climate change into management plans and further reported that several federal resource agencies, including the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Forest Service (FS), Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the National Park Service NPS) have not incorporated climate change into their strategic plans. The GAO further indicated that, “resource managers do not have sufficient site-specific information to plan for and manage the effects of climate change on the federal resources they manage.” Hindering the ability of federal resource managers to make timely decisions about managing climate change, are a lack of computational models, detailed inventories, and monitoring systems.

According to the GAO, the Secretaries of Agriculture, Commerce and Interior should work in conjunction with the Directors of FS, BLM, FWS, NPS and the Administrator of NOAA, to cultivate guidance for resource managers on how to address the effects of climate change.

Additionally, the National Academies released a report outlining the Academies’ findings from a review of the federal Climate Change Science Program. The report, “Evaluating Progress of the US Climate Change Science Program: Methods and Preliminary Results” notes that although research on recording and comprehending trends and changes has been good, “efforts to understand the impact of such changes on society and analyze mitigation and adaptation strategies are still relatively immature.” The report asserts that the US Climate Change Science Program has “made inadequate progress in supporting decision making, studying regional impacts, and communication with a wider group of stakeholders” and should present that information to policymakers.


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