Coordination Across Organizations

Dozens of federal agencies and other organizations are carrying out research, making decisions, and taking action on climate change through a host of existing programs and authorities. These include, for example, adaptation on federal lands (Departments of Agriculture, Interior, and Defense); research on climate change and related impacts (many agencies); research and development for technologies to respond to climate change (Department of Energy); information provision (Energy Information Administration, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Environmental Protection Agency); and regulation of automobile efficiency and GHG emissions (Department of Transportation, Environmental Protection Agency). Many additional organizations will likely engage as national strategies for limiting and adapting to climate change emerge.

Although the various activities carried out through these different programs are inextricably linked, they are managed largely as separate, isolated activities across the federal government. For example, many departments and agencies that are or will be engaged in climate response (e.g., Federal Emergency Management Agency, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Department of Energy) have not been part of the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) and lack sufficient communication with the federal agencies that are developing knowledge they need. The USGCRP and the Climate Change Adaptation Task Force have largely been confined to convening representatives of relevant agencies and programs for dialogue, without mechanisms for making or enforcing important decisions and priorities. Moreover, even the USGCRP and the Climate Change Technology Program together do not appear sufficient for effectively coordinating the full portfolio of research needed to support climate change response efforts.

One can look to other major policy arenas (e.g., public health, national security) and to other countries for examples of different coordinating mechanisms that have been employed with varying degrees of success. Some common models include:

• Giving one federal agency full responsibility and authority to lead and coordinate activities across the federal government (e.g., as has occurred with climate change in the United Kingdom and Australia);

• Creating a White House staff position tasked with directly advising the President on policy decisions and leading coordination efforts (e.g., a climate "czar");

• Establishing a new executive branch organization, staffed by senior-level officials from other relevant government bodies, responsible for coordinating policy and advising the President (e.g., the National Security Council model).


A detailed evaluation of the pros and cons associated with each of these different organizational models is beyond the scope of this report, but the next section discusses the general capabilities and responsibilities that would be most important for any such coordinating entity.

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