Climate Change Resilience

On June 25, 2013, President Obama announced his comprehensive plan to reduce carbon pollution, move our economy toward American-made clean energy sources, and begin to slow the effects of climate change.  The Administration is taking steady, responsible steps to cut the carbon pollution that causes climate change and threatens public health.   Reducing carbon pollution will help keep our air and water clean, protect our children, drive innovation to modernize our power plants, and create good American jobs as we move toward cleaner, more efficient forms of energy.

As we act to curb the carbon pollution that is driving climate change, we must also prepare for the impacts that are too late to avoid.  Across America, states, cities, and communities are taking steps to protect themselves by updating building codes, adjusting the way they manage natural resources, investing in more resilient infrastructure, and planning for rapid recovery from damages that do occur.  As laid out in the President’s plan, the Federal Government has an important role to play in supporting local efforts to build stronger, safer communities and infrastructure, protecting our economy and natural resources, supporting sound science to manage climate impacts, and ensuring that Federal operations and facilities can continue to protect and serve citizens in a changing climate.

The President’s plan builds on the steps the Administration has taken since its earliest days to improve the Nation’s preparedness and resilience.  Shortly after coming into office, President Obama established the Interagency Climate Change Adaptation Task Force, co-chaired by the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and including representatives from more than 20 Federal agencies.  On October 5, 2009, President Obama signed an Executive Order directing the Task Force to recommend ways Federal policies and programs can better prepare the Nation for climate change.

Learn more about the President's plan:

Executive Order on Preparing the United States for the Impacts of Climate Change

As called for in the Climate Action Plan, President Obama signed an Executive Order on November 1st, 2013 to direct Federal agencies to take a series of steps to make it easier for American communities to strengthen their resilience to extreme weather and prepare for other impacts of climate change.  The Executive Order instructs agencies to modernize Federal programs to support climate-resilient investments, plan for climate change related risks to Federal facilities, operations, and programs,  and provide the information, data, and tools that state, local, and private-sector leaders need to make smart decisions to improve preparedness and resilience.

The Executive Order also established a Task Force of state, local, and tribal leaders to advise the Administration on how the Federal Government can respond to the needs of communities nationwide that are dealing with the impacts of climate change.  The Task Force members include state, local, and tribal leaders from across the country who will use their first-hand experiences in building climate preparedness and resilience in their communities to inform their recommendations to the Administration.

The Executive Order also called for a Climate and Natural Resources Priority Agenda that represents a first of its kind, comprehensive commitment across the Federal Government to support resilience of our natural resources.  It identifies a suite of actions the Federal Government will take to enhance the resilience of America's natural resources to the impacts of climate change and promote their ability to absorb carbon dioxide. The agenda was developed jointly by Federal agencies and is informed by the President's State, Local, and Tribal Leaders Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience and other stakeholder engagement.

Learn more about the Task Force

Fact Sheet on the Executive Order and the Task Force

Executive Order -- Preparing the United States for the Impacts of Climate Change

Climate and Natural Resources Priority Agenda

Agency Climate Change Adaptation Planning

Under Executive Order 13514, President Obama directed Federal agencies to cut waste, pollution, and costs in Federal operations and to evaluate agency climate risks to protect taxpayer investments and ensure they can continue to meet their mission and serve the American public in the face of a changing climate.

In February 2013, Federal agencies released their first-ever Climate Change Adaptation Plans, outlining strategies to reduce the vulnerability of Federal programs, assets, and investments to the impacts of climate change, such as sea level rise or more frequent or severe extreme weather.  Agency plans highlight actions to plan for and address these impacts in their programs and operations.

Read the Agency Strategic Sustainability Performance Plans and Climate Change Adaptation Plans here.

 Cross-cutting Strategies

In its October 2010 Progress Report, the Interagency Climate Change Adaptation Task Force called for collaborative approaches within the government to address key cross-cutting issues related to climate change preparedness and resilience. The Task Force is working to ensure Federal agencies align their climate change adaptation planning efforts to build a coordinated and comprehensive response to the impacts of climate change on public health, communities, oceans, wildlife, and water resources.

Cross-Cutting Strategies

Key cross-cutting national strategies include:

Climate Science and Global Change Research

Climate science within a global change framework is the foundation for a U.S. strategy for resilience, and provides essential inputs for adaptation decisions across the country. The Global Change Research Act (GCRA) of 1990 established the interagency U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) “to understand, assess, predict, and respond to human-induced and natural processes of global change.” The 13 participating Federal agencies have invested significant resources in understanding and modeling the physical science of climate as well as the implications of climate change for human and natural systems. The U.S. investments include observing systems in the oceans, on land, and in the atmosphere; research on climate impacts and vulnerability; and development of information to support decision-making. USGCRP also participates in global efforts to monitor and model circulation patterns in the ocean and atmosphere, as well as land surface-atmosphere interactions.

National Assessment

A U.S. strategy for resilience will also benefit from a comprehensive National Assessment of climate impacts and response options, required every four years under the GCRA. The National Assessment provides a mechanism for engaging communities at the regional, tribal, state, and local levels to build a shared vision of our nation's most pressing challenges related to climate change. The USGCRP is currently working on a strategy for the next National Assessment, which, in addition to assessing climate change impacts, will also help align USGCRP and related research efforts with the Climate Change Adaptation Task Force's work. The Assessment will identify science needs in understanding current and future climate impacts and regional or sector-related vulnerability to those impacts, supporting resilience and mitigation decisions, and informing effective translation of science into services and applications.

Task Force Progress Reports

On October 28, 2011 the Task Force released the 2011 Interagency Climate Change Adaptation Task Force Progress Report outlining the Federal Government's progress in expanding and strengthening the Nation's capacity to better understand, prepare for, and respond to extreme events and other climate change impacts. The report provides an update on actions in key areas of Federal adaptation, including: building resilience in local communities, safeguarding critical natural resources such as freshwater, and providing accessible climate information and tools to help decision-makers manage climate risks.

The 2011 Interagency Climate Change Adaptation Task Force Progress Report is available here.

On March 16, 2010, the Task Force released an Interim Progress Report, recommending key components to include in a national strategy on climate change adaptation. In October 2010, the Task Force articulated a set of policy goals and recommendations in a Progress Report to the President.

The 2010 Interagency Climate Change Adaptation Task Force Progress Report is available here.