Climate change and water use deserve more attention – US government agency

Climate change has not been made a priority by US Federal agencies, despite the fact that they manage over 600 million acres of land - almost 30% of land area in the United States - and more than 150,000 square miles of protected waters.

In a new report commissioned by Senators John Kerry – a Massachusetts Democrat – and John McCain – an Arizona Republican – the United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) published a new report earlier this week evaluating ‘the state of readiness’ in responding to climate change and managing both land and water resources.

Information was gathered using views drawn in a 2-day workshop attended by over 50 scientists, federal resource managers, and economists.

The report considers various experts’ views on “the effects of climate change and federal resource managers’ view on the challenges addressing climate change on federal resources with four ecosystem types,” which include coasts and oceans, forests, fresh waters, and grasslands and shrub-lands managed by a host of federal agencies in the United States.

The GAO suggests that federal resource managers currently have restricted guidance and are not sufficiently equipped to know what actions to take place – if any at all – to address the impacts of climate change.

“Without such guidance–and additional site-specific data–resource managers are constrained in their ability to address climate change in their planning and management activities,” the report says.

The report suggests the development of “clearly written communication” by “government so that resource managers are able to expected how to better “address the effects of climate change…and reflects best practices shared among the relevant agencies, while also recognizing the unique missions, objectives, and responsibilities of each agency.”

Ubiquitous concerns such as effects like droughts, sea level rise and biological effects are cited throughout the report, which further looks into assessments made by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change regarding greenhouse gases and additional relevant reports of environmental factors.

Senator Kerry has been quoted as saying that this type of report is long overdue, and should act as a ‘wakeup call’ for US Congress to “take bold and decisive action to pass climate change legislation that reduces carbon emissions.”

To view a pdf of the full report follow the link.

Dana Gornitzki

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie