In light of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s forthcoming 2013 report detailing the latest scientific findings and projections related to climate change, President Obama signed an Executive Order on November 1 directing federal agencies to take a series of actions aimed at making it easier for American communities to strengthen their resilience to droughts, storms, wildfires, and other impacts of climate change. By establishing a task force that includes tribal leaders, the Order gives Tribes a voice in shaping the federal effort.
The State, Local, and Tribal Leaders Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience is chaired by the White House and made up of invited state, local, and tribal leaders, including Karen Diver, Chairwoman, Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa (MN), and Reggie Joule, Mayor, Northwest Arctic Borough (AK).
Along with the other members, Divers and Joule will use their firsthand experiences building climate preparedness and resilience in their communities to advise the administration on how the federal government can best respond to the needs of communities nationwide that are working to mitigate the impacts of climate change. The Task Force will provide recommendations to the President on removing barriers to resilient investments, modernizing federal grant and loan programs to better support local efforts, and developing the information and tools they need to prepare.
Noting that weather extremes associated with climate change are already affecting communities, natural resources, ecosystems, economies, and public health across the United States, the Executive Order stated, “These impacts are often most significant for communities that already face economic or health-related challenges, and for species and habitats that are already facing other pressures. Managing these risks requires deliberate preparation, close cooperation, and coordinated planning.”
The Task Force will play a key role in these risk-management efforts by assisting the federal government in establishing policies and prioritizing investments that promote preparedness, protect critical infrastructure and public resources, support science and research needed to prepare for climate impacts, and ensure that federal operations and facilities continue to protect and serve citizens in a changing climate.
In addition to establishing the Task Force, the Executive Order calls for the federal government to take the following actions aimed at enhancing preparedness and resilience:
- Modernize Federal Programs to Support Climate Resilient Investment—Work with regions, states, communities, and Tribes to: 1) remove or reform federal barriers to their efforts to building resiliency while ensuring continued protection of public health and the environment; 2)reform policies and federal funding programs that may unintentionally increase vulnerability to climate change-related risks; 3) identify opportunities to support and encourage smarter, more climate-resilient investments; and 4) coordinate and modernize federal processes related to developing and integrating manmade and natural infrastructure, evaluating public health and social equity issues, and safeguarding natural resources.
- Manage Lands and Waters for Climate Preparedness and Resilience—Complete within nine months of the Order an inventory and assessment of proposed and completed changes to federal agency land- and water-related policies, programs, and regulations necessary to make the nation's watersheds, natural resources, and ecosystems, and the communities and economies that depend on them, more resilient in the face of a changing climate.
- Provide Information, Data, and Tools for Climate Change Preparedness and Resilience—Work collaboratively to develop and provide authoritative, easily accessible, usable, and timely data, information, and decision-support tools that support federal, regional, state, local, tribal, private-sector and nonprofit-sector climate preparedness and resilience efforts, including a Web-based portal on Data.gov.
- Build Upon Existing Federal Agency Planning for Climate Change-Related Risk—Develop implement, and update their existing Adaptation Plans evaluating the most significant short- and long-term climate change-related risks to, and vulnerabilities in, agency operations and missions and outlining actions they will take to manage them.
- Establish a Council on Climate Preparedness and Resilience—Work collaboratively partnership with state, local, and tribal governments, academic and research institutions, and the private and nonprofit sectors to: 1) develop, recommend, coordinate and track interagency efforts on climate preparedness and resilience; 2) support regional, state, local, and tribal action to assess climate change-related vulnerabilities and cost-effectively increase climate preparedness and resilience; 3) facilitate the integration of climate science into policies and planning of government agencies and the private sector by promoting the development of innovative federal climate change-related information, data, and tools, including a Web-based portal.