Friday, November 18, 2011

Climate Change Adaptation: Federal Efforts to Provide Information Could Help Government Decision Making -- GAO

This Government Accountability Office report finds that challenges from insufficient site-specific data—such as local projections—make it hard for federal, state, and local officials to predict the impacts of climate change, and thus hard to justify the current costs of adaptation efforts for potentially less certain future benefits. Based on responses from a diverse array of federal, state, and local officials knowledgeable about adaptation, related challenges generally fit into two main categories: (1) translating climate data—such as projected temperature and precipitation changes—into information that officials need to make decisions and (2) the difficulty in justifying the current costs of adaptation with limited information about future benefits.

Federal strategic planning efforts could be improved for many aspects of the climate change enterprise. For example, GAO’s October 2009 report on climate change adaptation concluded that, to be effective, related federal efforts must be coordinated and directed toward a common goal. This report recommended the development of a strategic plan to guide the nation’s efforts to adapt to a changing climate, including the identification of mechanisms to increase the capacity of federal, state, and local agencies to incorporate information about current and potential climate change impacts into government decision making. Some actions have subsequently been taken to improve federal adaptation efforts, but GAO’s May 2011 report on climate change funding found that federal officials do not have a shared understanding of strategic government wide priorities.

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