Draft national strategy for adapting to climate change


The United States Fish and Wildlife Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and other federal, state, and tribal partners announced on January 20, 2012 a draft National Fish, Wildlife, and Plants Climate Adaptation Strategy (Strategy) (77 FR 2996). The Strategy indicates that Earth’s climate is changing due to increasing levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and that natural resources, people, communities, and economies in the United States are being impacted already. The Strategy suggests that, in the United States, average air temperature has increased by 2°F and precipitation has increased ~5% in the last 50 years, rainfall in the heaviest storms is up by 20%, and heat waves and regional droughts are more frequent and intense. In addition, hurricanes have reportedly gotten stronger, sea levels have increased by eight inches globally, Arctic sea ice is shrinking, and oceans are becoming more acidic.

The stated purpose of the Strategy is to “inspire and enable natural resource professionals and other decision makers to take action to conserve the nation’s fish, wildlife, plants, and ecosystem functions, as well as the human uses and values these natural systems provide, in a changing climate.” Thus, it identifies steps that can be taken or initiated over the next five to ten years and is designed to be a key part of the nation’s larger response to a changing climate. These actions are organized under seven major goals in the Strategy: (1) conserving and connecting habitat; (2) managing species and habitats; (3) enhancing management capacity; (4) supporting adaptive management; (5) increasing knowledge; (6) increasing awareness and motivating action; and (7) reducing stresses not caused by climate change. The draft Strategy is available at www.wildlifeadaptationstrategy.gov/.

NCASI has reviewed the draft Strategy and identified several opportunities for improvement. The Strategy should acknowledge and account for the uncertainty associated with using global models to make projections of future climate at the regional scales. Agencies should avoid overstating scientific understanding of the causes of climate change and its potential effects, and to recognize limitations in data and projections related to those effects. The Strategy should also more fully document the technical basis for proposed adaptation strategies/actions, provide more details about how these actions would be implemented, and address the cost-effectiveness of proposed actions.


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