Going in the Wrong Direction: We Need More Advice on the Impacts of Climate Change

August 21, 2017 | 2:15 pm
Andrew Rosenberg
Former Contributor

As of Sunday, the federal Advisory Panel for the Sustained National Climate Assessment is no more.  The charter for the panel was not renewed. That makes little sense from any perspective I can imagine. This panel was advising the federal government on how to best improve the scientific information for state and local governments, businesses and the public on the ongoing impacts of climate change.

What is the best way to help inform local planning processes, for example in places experiencing chronic tidal flooding due to rising seas? What information do architects and engineers need and in what form? According to the website, the panel was due to report in 2018.  I guess the Trump Administration couldn’t wait to cut off that flow of science to the public.

I served on the advisory panel for the Third National Climate Assessment (the Fourth is in process) mandated by Congress in the Global Change Research Act of 1990. The Third Assessment advisory panel was responsible for crafting the assessment itself. In addition, we recommended that the government engage in a sustained assessment process which would provide ongoing information on the impacts of climate change on a continuing basis, rather than just every four years as in the full assessments. The reason is that a lot of changes are happening quickly from severe weather, like recent heat waves in the west,  to changes affecting fisheries in New England.

The sustained assessment effort is intended  to help government, business and the public have better information for decision-making. That’s exactly what many state and local officials have been asking for from the federal government according to the Washington Post report. Of course, the government can provide information without external advisors, but why would it want to? The advisors are not compensated and they bring substantial expertise in various fields as well as new perspectives. The government only stands to gain from their service.

Unfortunately this isn’t the first time the Trump administration has gutted an advisory panel, nor is it the first time, unfortunately, that they have taken steps to sideline science. These actions are deeper than just a different perspective or approach to policy related to climate change or public health, safety and environmental protections. Terminating this advisory panel hinders efforts to get better information for the public. Is that the Trump Administration’s intent? Providing less public information doesn’t reduce or even hide the impacts of global warming, it just makes us all that much less prepared for those impacts.