The plan to protect our wild places from climate change

A new report from the Obama administration calls for more protection for our forests, peaks, and valleys from the ravages of climate change, steps that The Wilderness Society has been calling for to protect our wild places and create jobs.

The report shines a light on a much-neglected corner of the climate debate. It sets forth clearly the truth that capping carbon emissions alone will not be enough to protect us from the ravages of climate change (although it is a very vital step for the future) and calls on government, businesses, and others to prepare for rising seas and temperatures. These actions – called “adaptation” – have many benefits, including job creation, protecting public health, buffering our vulnerable coastlines, and preserving our sources of clean water in the face of a warming world.

The Interagency Climate Change Adaptation Task Force was made up of more than 20 federal agencies including the White House Council on Environmental Quality, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the US Forest Service, and the US Fish and Wildlife Service. They presented their report to the President on the needed steps to protect land, wildlife, and communities from the threat of climate change.

Titled “Progress Report of the Interagency Climate Change Adaptation Task Force: Recommended Actions in Support of a National Climate Change Adaptation Strategy ,” the report lays out critical steps for federal agencies to combat rising temperatures, melting snowpack, and an influx of devastating pests like the pine bark beetle that is eating its way through our national forests.

The report is far from complete – it is a “progress report” after all – but it does lay out groundwork for agencies to manage their lands and waters in way that protects them, and local communities, from a warming world. Resource managers, ecologists, and economists at The Wilderness Society will continue to provide feedback to agencies as they develop their exact adaptation strategies.

Ultimately, this report from Obama administration highlights the importance of adaptation strategies in the face of the failure of the 111th Congress to address carbon pollution in a comprehensive climate change bill.

Our wild places need a cap on climate-change-causing greenhouse gases – planning for the worst is an unfortunately necessary, as we prepare to face more than a century of unchecked carbon pollution. Melting glaciers, rising seas, and stranded walruses are all signs that climate change is here now – and human communities are going to suffer from the decline of our natural systems if we do not devote the resources needed to restore and protect them now.