Carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases (GHGs) are responsible for global warming, the long-term worldwide average warming experienced since the industrial revolution. GHGs arise from human use of fossil fuels for energy. Major emitters of GHGs include both industrialized countries and, in recent decades, developing countries as well. Higher global temperatures cause the extremes of hot and cold, and wet and dry, weather of recent years. This blog examines global warming and its effects.
See the Tabbed Pages for links to video tutorials, and a linked list of post titles grouped by topic.
This blog is expressly directed to readers who do not have strong training or backgrounds in science, with the intent of helping them grasp the underpinnings of this important issue. I'm going to present an ongoing series of posts that will develop various aspects of the science of global warming, its causes and possible methods for minimizing its advance and overcoming at least partially its detrimental effects.
Each post will begin with a capsule summary. It will then proceed with captioned sections to amplify and justify the statements and conclusions of the summary. I'll present images and tables where helpful to develop a point, since "a picture is worth a thousand words".
Wednesday, March 19, 2014
The U.S. Needs a Single Department/Agency Dedicated to Global Warming
National Climate Assessment Development Advisory Committee issued a draft
version of its Third National Climate Assessment in 2013.The Committee is drawn from bureaus and divisions
within thirteen diverse federal departments and agencies.Its mission is to report on scientific information
and assessments thereof related to global warming, but does not include a
mandate to formulate policy.
These and other
aspects of the Committee’s composition and responsibilities lead to
identification of several administrative problems and deficiencies.
recommends that in order to overcome these difficulties a single cabinet-level
department or agency be created solely devoted to most or all aspects of the
global warming issue.This new entity
critically should be charged with proposing policies addressing mitigation of
and adaptation to further global warming.
Climate Assessment Development Advisory Committee (NCADAC) issued a draft
version of its Third National Climate Assessment (NCA) in 2013.The NCADAC was established in 2010 under
terms of the Federal Advisory Committee Act of 1972.It is housed in the Department of Commerce
under the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.The NCADAC consists of 60 members. Forty-five senior authors drawn from academic,
nonprofit and consulting organizations prepared the report.240 other scientists and professionals
assisted the NCADAC. The work was
coordinated by fourteen ex officio members drawn from thirteen federal
agencies.These are the logos of the participating
departments and agencies:
In turn the NCA is
authorized under the Global Change Research Act of 1990 (the Act) to “assist
the nation and the world to understand, assess, predict, and respond to
human-induced and natural processes of global change”.It is assembled in the Global Change Research Program.A principal objective of the Act is to “improve
cooperation among Federal agencies and departments with respect to global
change research activities”.In
addition, every four years it is to prepare an assessment for the President and
Congress that (1) evaluates and interprets its results, including scientific
uncertainties, (2) analyzes effects of global change on the environment and on
an extensive range of human economic and social activities, and (3) analyzes
current natural and man-made trends and offers projections of future trends for
up to 100 years.It is noteworthy that its
tasks do not include formulation of policies to address global warming.
The draft NCA was
open for comments for a time, and its final version in response to comments
received is in preparation.Links to the
full draft report, as well as to each chapter individually, are available here.
Departments and Agencies
As noted above,
official government participation in the preparation of the NCA comes from
twelve departments and agencies and the White House.These are
for International Development
of the Interior
of Homeland Security
Aeronautics and Space Administration
House Council on Environmental Quality
Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
of Health and Human Services
each department or agency including the section within each having to do with
global warming, and the title of each ex officio member participating in
preparing the report, are given in the Details section at the end of this post.
problems arise from the present dispersed nature of the federal global warming
effort.The Details provided at the end of this post
make clear that the offices in the federal government working on global warming
are strewn across a myriad of departments and agencies.Only perhaps two of these, the Environmental
Protection Agency and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, are
concerned primarily with the environment in general, and within them, specifically
the issue of global warming.The
problems arising from the existing arrangement include the following important
from thirteen federal departments and agencies with a broad range of
administrative responsibilities serve as Acting Ex Officio Members
coordinating the preparation of this third NCA.
noted above, NCADAC is not mandated to formulate policy recommendations to
address global warming and the harms it inflicts on humanity. (For example, see the NCA Executive Summary,
in the section “Responding to Climate Change”.It states that mitigation approaches are being assessed elsewhere than
by the NCADAC, including by various departments and agencies among those in the
the departments and agencies of the NCADAC have disparate objectives and
conduct differing activities related to global warming.These are carried out in a fashion that is
administratively segregated, without significant coordination by an upper level
cabinet official.This situation
potentially inhibits effective communication between personnel in related
fields.Important research and
assessments are conducted by various ones of these agencies and departments,
while regulation of emissions from different sources originates in still other
agencies and departments.
summary, the present status of research, evaluation and policy development
related to global warming critically lacks a centralized, authoritative, coordinated
the organizations in the NCADAC are full federal departments headed by a
cabinet member, a Secretary, or an agency headed by an Administrator.Since s/he heads a very large organization
(see Details), her/his attention is divided among many issues over time.For this reason s/he can neither provide the
focus nor devote the attention to global warming that it merits.
these departments and agencies oversee a variety of activities, many of whose
goals are inconsistent with each other, with respect to the issue of global
warming (see Details).Consequently it
is difficult for the particular Secretary or Administrator to develop and
implement policies that could address global warming as effectively as possible,
because s/he represents conflicting subordinate divisions.The same person is being asked to perform
functions that are mutually opposed to each other.This is not an effective way to promote
policies that address the issue of global warming.
possible that vital communication among personnel engaged in their particular
activities within their departments and agencies may be inefficient, simply
because of bureaucratic barriers.(This
writer has no substantiation for this surmise.)
the specific offices, bureaus and divisions contributing to preparation of the
NCA are housed in larger departments and agencies.As such they have to contend with their peer
offices, bureaus and divisions within their departments and agencies for support
from limited budgetary resources.This
potentially limits their capabilities for carrying out their objectives.
The U.S. needs a new cabinet-level
department/agency dedicated to global warming.The very
motto of the NCADAC, “Thirteen Agencies, One Vision…”,
cries out for just
such a solution. This vision in reality
must be expanded to the notion that America’s effort against continued warming
be empowered by strong science, critical evaluation, and bold new federal
and divisions within the thirteen agencies of the NCADAC contribute diverse
activities to the assembly of the NCA; these are identified below in the
Details section.The statement of
purpose of the NCADAC, to “improve cooperation among Federal agencies and
departments with respect to global change research activities”, speaks directly
to the crucial weakness of current federal efforts to combat global warming,
namely, the diffused location of efforts among executive branch departments and
agencies.The Details section makes
clear just how broadly these responsibilities are scattered.
In order to
overcome the managerial, bureaucratic and budgetary impediments to the
development of cogent global warming policy, all or most of these activities
should be united under the leadership of a new Department or Agency dealing
exclusively with global warming.(A
reasonable case for exceptions exists perhaps for preserving efforts devoted to
international climate negotiations within the Department of State, and for
keeping the Sustainable Infrastructure section within the Department of
Defense, for example).
A single department
or agency would resolve the difficulties identified above.1) The scattered, diffuse distribution of
efforts devoted to global warming would be centralized into a unified
administrative structure.The mission of
the new department or agency would include formulation of policy, not merely
research to collect new information and evaluation of that information.2) The department secretary or agency administrator
could focus all her/his efforts on the single subject of global warming.3) The attention of the department secretary
or agency administrator would not be diverted by needing to concern
herself/himself with the prerogatives of conflicting subordinate
divisions.4) Having a single
administrative structure would facilitate communication among personnel working
on various aspects of the global warming effort.And 5) formulation of the budget and
allocation of resources could be accomplished within the administrative
structure of the new entity to optimize efficiency and effectiveness.
It is concluded
that the U.
should create a single new cabinet-level department or agency whose mission
would be to address all aspects of the global warming problem.Doing so would overcome serious bureaucratic
problems that currently exist, and optimize federal efforts in this endeavor.
Involved in Global Change
(Many statements below are based on information obtained from agency-specific internet
pages and from Wikipedia.)As noted
above, the fourteen offices whose staffs were officially involved in assembling
the NCA are components of thirteen separate departments or agencies.The details below provide thumbnails of these
departments and agencies, and the offices in which the staff members are
Protection Agency (EPA)
EPA is a
free-standing federal agency created in 1970 by an executive order from
President Nixon.Its head, the
Administrator, has cabinet-level authority.
Its organization chart
presents twelve Offices, including Air and Radiation, Research and Development,
and Water.The Office of Air and
Radiation is responsible for controlling air pollution and radiation exposure,
and includes the subjects of climate change, energy efficiency, pollution from
vehicles and engines, acid rain, and stratospheric ozone depletion.EPA gained authority to regulate greenhouse
gas emissions under the Clean Air Act by the Supreme Court’s decision in Massachusetts v. EPA in 2007.Under this authority EPA and the Department
of Transportation jointly regulate greenhouse gas emissions from motor
vehicles, i.e. from distributed sources.EPA also uses this authority to regulate emissions from fixed point
sources, primarily electric power plants.
A member of the Office
of Research and Development, National Risk Management Laboratory, Air Pollution
Prevention and Control Division is a member of the team overseeing preparation
of the NCA.
Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
independent federal agency, was established in 1958 to develop civilian space
exploration.Currently many of the
modalities used to measure and assess global warming and its terrestrial
effects use NASA spacecraft.Its
shows the main aspects of its operations.
The Senior Advisor
for Inter-Organizational Environmental Science, NASA Science Mission
Directorate helps supervise the preparation of the NCA.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
NOAA is but one
division of many in the Department of Commerce.Most of theseare directed toward promotion and
assessment of domestic commerce and international trade.
Within this setting
NOAA appears to be an outlier, having little in common with the other divisions.
Its organization chart
clearly shows its emphasis on oceanic and atmospheric research. It uses advanced scientific technologies to
study changes in the oceans and the atmosphere, including global climate
observation and use of state-of-the-art climate models.
A scientist in
NOAA’s Climate Program Office helps prepare the NCA.
preparing the NCA and for the NCADAC is shared between NASA and NOAA.
Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ)
CEQ promotes policies
within the White House intended to limit emission of greenhouse gases and
promoting renewable energy sources.In
these ways it seeks to mitigate global warming.
Associate Director of CEQ participates in assembling the NCA.
DOE has expanded
from the original Atomic Energy Commission created to host civilian
applications of nuclear energy after World War II.It was elevated to the cabinet-level DOE in
1977.Its organization chart shows it has major responsibilities in military and civilian aspects of nuclear
power.In addition, in the Office of
Science and Energy there are an Office of Science, and Assistant Secretaries for
Fossil Energy, and for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.Separate sections, reporting directly to the
Secretary of Energy, include the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy,
which supports new commercial ventures in renewable energy, and the Energy
This summary shows
that within the same Department there are programs dealing with the fossil fuel
industry on the one hand, and renewable energy on the other.
The Director of the
Climate and Environmental Sciences Division, found in the Office of Biological
and Environmental Research, a component of the Office of Science, is an
official supervising preparation of the NCA.
the Interior (DOI)
The organization chart
for DOI shows five primary divisions, including Land and Minerals Management;
Fish, Wildlife and Parks; and Water and Science.
The Water and
Science division includes the U. S. Geological Survey (USGS), whose mission comprises
Climate and Land Use Change, Core Science Systems, Ecosystems, Energy and
Minerals, Environmental Health, Natural Hazards, and Water.
The Land and
Minerals Management division oversees public lands, offshore waters and federal
energy and mineral resources; this includes granting permits for and regulating
natural resource extraction on federal lands.DOI’s division of Land and Minerals Management includes the Bureau of
Land Management; the Office of Surface Mining, Reclamation and Enforcement; and
the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.The Bureau of Land Management oversees American public lands, about
one-eighth of the total area of the U. S.Its responsibilities include regulating natural resource development
such as logging, mining and extraction of fossil fuels, as well as projects for
The Bureau of Ocean
Energy Management governs the development of offshore oil and gas resources in
an environmentally and economically acceptable way, as well as developing
offshore renewable energy.
It is seen from
this summary that DOI comprises development activities in the realms of both
fossil fuels and other minerals, and growth of renewable energy.Historically its emphasis has been on the
first of these activities.
The USGS Chief
Scientist for Climate and Land Use Change is an official supervising the NCA.
Foundation (NSF) supports
basic research projects proposed primarily by academic investigators across the
spectrum of scientific endeavor.The
Director of NSF’s Program in Decision, Risk and Management Sciences contributes
to coordinating the preparation of the NCA.
Institutionwas founded in 1846.Iits website states it is the largest museum
and research organization in the world. Its EnvironmentalResearchCenter studies connections between land and water
in coastal zones, including effects of global warming.A Senior Policy Advisor focusing on global
environmental issues participates in supervising preparation of the NCA.
objective is promoting ease and safety of domestic transportation and travel,
and fostering their economic development.Its various sections relate to highways, waterways, air travel,
railroads, pipelines and movement of hazardous materials. Corporate Average
Fuel Economy (CAFE) fuel efficiency standards for motor
vehicles originate jointly from DOT’s National Highway Traffic Safety
Administration and EPA.CAFÉ standards
are the executive branch’s means for regulating fossil fuel use in distributed
(i.e., moving) emission sources.
An energy economist
working in the Office of the Secretary is an official overseeing preparation of
The Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is a component of the Department of
Health and Human Services (HHS).HHS also operates the Social Security
Administration, Medicare, and the National Institutes of Health. An epidemiologist
who is Associate Director for Climate Change in the Division of Environmental
Hazards and Health Effects at the NationalCenter for Environmental Health of the CDC is an
official supervising preparation of the NCA.
The DOAg official
supporting the preparation of the NCA is Director of the Climate Change Program
Office (CCPO), which is responsible for coordinating climate change research
and program activities in the Department.These activities set forth the causes and consequences of global
warming, as well as ways of mitigating and adapting to it.
DOD is a large
organization responsible for military activities of the U. S.The DOD official contributing to preparation
of the NCA is Program Manager for Sustainable Infrastructure in the Environmental
Security Technology Certification Program.
DOS has an office for special envoys and representatives reporting directly to the
Secretary (see organization chart) , one of whom is devoted to international negotiations on climate
change.A DOS official in this office
participates in preparation of the NCA.
The U. S. Agency
for International Development (USAID)
is also a component of DOS, reporting directly to the Secretary.The Global Climate Change Coordinator in
USAID is an official overseeing preparation of the NCA.
Homeland Security (DHS)
DHS seeks to keep
secure from external threats.Its
shows seven operational divisions.DHS was
assembled from several other federal agencies after the attacks of September
11, 2001.The Senior Counsel to the Secretary
participates in preparation of the NCA.