Many previous NRC studies have offered guidance on how to ensure that decision makers are informed by the best relevant scientific and technical analysis;28 but in the context of climate change, efforts to actually do so are in their infancy. Traditionally, climate change research efforts have been organized predominantly around priorities defined by advancing scientific understanding, which do not necessarily match the needs of affected decision makers. Meeting the coordination challenge of linking knowledge to action will require sustained efforts from decision makers at all levels, but there is a particularly strong need for federal leadership. Federal agencies can create organizations to perform coordination functions for particular regions or sectors, as NOAA has done with its Regional Integrated Sciences and Assessments Program, and DOI is planning to do with its Landscape Conservation Councils and Climate Science Centers. They can also support networks that link decision makers within a region or sector to each other and to decision-relevant knowledge, can facilitate processes to collect and analyze data on climate response efforts around the country, and can communicate the lessons from objective assessments of these efforts, thus enabling decision makers to learn from each other's experiences.
In summary, the following are some essential coordination challenges that a national climate change response effort will need to address:
• Ensuring that federal actions facilitate (or at a minimum, do not impede) effective nonfederal actions for mitigation and adaptation;
• Developing a clear division of labor among federal agencies and a process to monitor how well this division of labor is functioning over time;
• Ensuring decision support for constituencies that do not have a particular government agency or program responsible for providing such information; and
• Linking science, decision support, and resource management functions within the federal response to climate change.
To address such wide-ranging challenges, any institution with major responsibility for coordinating our nation's climate change response efforts will need to have several key features, including: authority to set priorities and to turn these priorities into resource allocation decisions; sufficient budgetary resources to actually implement allocation decisions; personnel who both understand climate science and understand the needs of climate-affected decision makers; mechanisms for monitoring the organization's performance, in order to improve over time; and processes to ensure accountability to the parties that use information developed or shared by the institution.
RECOMMENDATION 7: The federal government should facilitate coordination of the many interrelated components of America's response to climate change with a process that identifies the most critical coordination issues and recommends concrete steps for how to address these issues. Coordination and possible reorganization among federal agencies will require attention from the highest levels of the executive branch and from Congress. In areas of mixed federal and non-federal responsibility, the federal government's leadership role should emphasize support and facilitation of decentralized responses at lower levels of government and in the private sector.
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