Quiz time, readers: what do the US Department of Agriculture, the Environmental Protection Agency, NASA, the Transportation Department, the Department of Defense, the Department of the Interior, the Energy Department, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce, the Government Accountability Office, and the CIA have in common?
It’s a long list of government departments and agencies, and they’re all getting something right. Now brace yourselves.
They’re all preparing for climate change, or telling the federal government it must do so!
President Obama signed Executive Order 13514 in 2009, telling the first eight departments in the list they must issue annual reports, reviews, and goals for climate change mitigation and adaptation. Ever since then, they’ve done just that.
The USDA, for example, knows it must gear up for what promises to be ever-more-volatile weather. At the same time, they must figure out how to contain costs and meet the demand, particularly where land restoration and wildfire management are concerned.
At the EPA, air and water quality will remain of primary importance. Cleaning up past environmental mistakes will require attention as well. The Department of Defense believes it must reduce energy costs and improve energy security through efficiency measures and renewable energy projects. The Interior Dept. intends to update its Climate Science Center Strategic Plans, and to address the role of economics in adapting to climate change.
Present and accounted for
Meanwhile, NASA will make data from climate experts available where most needed; the Transportation Dept. will be looking at building long-lasting infrastructure; the Energy Dept. will plan for climate change impacts on the energy sector, and the NOAA will continue monitoring sea level rise, fish populations, preparing long-term regional climate forecasts, and helping coastal communities with adaptation plans.
The Government Accountability Office, one of the least corrupt and most effective government agencies, has just issued a report in its “High-Risk Series” which states that
The federal government is not well positioned to address the fiscal exposure presented by climate change …
(So much for James Inhofe’s fantasy that climate change is best addressed by ignoring it.)
Finally, a CIA-funded study conducted at Harvard warns that our observational infrastructure — i.e., satellites — is threatened by underfunding. Without satellites, monitoring climate disruption becomes much more difficult, thereby creating a national security threat.
President Obama continues demonstrating his chops in the climate change arena, and there’s some comfort in that. Citizens owe it to themselves and each other, however, to ask the obvious: Where, oh where, is Congress in the midst of all this governmental acknowledgement and preparation? Lawmakers have a decisive role to play in determining whether our nation will meet the greatest challenge it – and the world – has ever faced. Legislators’ neglect is criminal; their ignorance, rooted in the belief that we are at least as stupid as they are, is immoral.
They should not be the last to know.
–Vicki Lipski, Transition Voice