By JP Leous
While the world waits for the Senate to take up comprehensive climate and clean energy legislation, the Obama Administration has been quite busy advancing a key aspect of climate policy: natural resources adaptation, which includes jobs monitoring species, removing invasive species, restoring wetlands and removing unwanted old logging roads. In fact, the Administration recently released two reports on this important topic.
Last week the Interior Department, along with several other federal agencies and national conservation groups, released The State of the Birds 2010 report.
Focusing on climate change impacts on birds, the report is a wakeup call for bird enthusiasts and non-birders alike. It says that 93% of Hawaiian birds, all of the ocean bird species (from albatrosses to puffins) in U.S. waters, and many more bird species in our forests, wetlands and arid ecosystems exhibit medium or high vulnerability to climate impacts.
What does this mean to non-ornithologists? Basically, the places, food and water sources and weather patterns that these birds rely on are significantly threatened by climate change. In some cases, even their “back-up” plans are at risk, meaning these species will have a very tough time adapting as climate change continues to alter their habitats.
The report also highlights key strategies we can start yesterday that give wildlands, birds and our communities the best possible chance at weathering the climate storm. From removing invasive species to restoring watersheds and repairing natural coastlines, bird populations will benefit from these job-creating projects.
The habitat loss, temperature changes, precipitation shifts and food shortages that will challenge the survival of these species will continue to impact “nearly every aspect of our society and environment” and is already “affecting the ability of Federal agencies to fulfill their missions.” So says the Interagency Climate Change Adaptation Task Force’s Interim Progress Report, released yesterday.
Already, government agencies have a tough new challenge. These agencies have traditionally planned for the future assuming the future would largely look like the past. Now that that isn’t the case, agencies are having a tough time prioritizing work and budgets. For example, the Department of Transportation and the Army Corps of Engineers now must think about planning for more frequent catastrophic storms (the kind that used to happen only every 100 years).
Not only is this interagency Task Force a mouthful, but it’s an impressive collection of more than 20 Federal Agencies focused on developing coordinated, effective climate adaptation strategies across the government. While good work on the adaptation front has started in some agencies, states and cities, the report’s upshot remains: there’s lots more work to do!
A unified strategic approach, organized and coordinate efforts across agencies, connecting resources (financial and intellectual) to prioritized needs, and understand of obstacles within government are some of the “gaps” the Task Force identified within the government’s current approach. But closing these gaps will help create a more efficient and effective climate response that can jumpstart a green American economy.
So, to distill what the Administration’s top officials and scientists have reported during the past few days: Climate change is real, it’s already impacting our country, and failing to act now puts wildlife, our communities, national security and economy at risk.
What should we take away from this rather dire prognosis? The very real and significant challenges posed by the climate crisis are so profound that they could literally fuel an upsurge of jobs for an entire generation. To anyone who will listen, it is clear there is already a ferocious need to put more minds and muscle into jobs that help the wild and human world adapt to changes ahead.
If we can recognize that, we’ll achieve a win-win for those who fly and those stuck on the ground.
Photo by Jeff Mondragon.