Two recent reports released by the Obama administration outline the need for U.S. action on climate change. A team of 90 officials released the “National Fish, Wildlife and Plants Climate Adaptation Strategy,” while the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) released a report that addresses climate mitigation and adaptation.

The Climate Adaptation Strategy, developed by federal agencies and state and tribal governments, marks “the beginning of a significant and collective effort to take effective action to reduce risks and to increase the resiliency of our valuable natural resources,” according to the report. The adaptation strategy describes the observed and expected impacts of climate change on the environment. “Even if further GHG [greenhouse gas] emissions were halted today, alterations already underway in the Earth’s climate will last for hundreds or thousands of years… with accompanying major changes in extreme weather events, variable and/or inconsistent weather patterns, sea level rise, and changing ocean conditions including increased acidification,” the report states.

The report also presents goals for natural resource managers, which include promoting habitat conservation, protecting ecosystem function, coordinating information systems, filling in knowledge gaps, educating the public, and reducing non-climate stressors. Developed over the last four years as a “key part of the nation’s larger response to climate change,” the report contains “the most strongly worded language on climate change the U.S. government has written,” according to Noah Matson, vice president of climate change adaptation for Defenders of Wildlife.

The report offers a strong warning: “Admittedly, the task ahead is a daunting one, especially if the world fails to make serious efforts to reduce emissions of GHGs. But we can make a difference. To do that, we must begin now to prepare for a future unlike the recent past.”

The PCAST report, released 22 March, details a six-point strategy to adapt to, and mitigate, climate change. The report says, “mitigation is needed to avoid a degree of climate change that would be unmanageable despite efforts to adapt. Adaptation is needed because the climate is already changing and some further change is inevitable regardless of what is done to reduce its pace and magnitude.” Recommendations include decarbonizing the economy, promoting clean energy technology through leveling the playing field and sustaining research, and establishing the U.S. as an international leader in climate change.


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