Key Issues > Climate Change Funding and Management
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Climate Change Funding and Management

Over the past 20 years, the federal government has spent billions of dollars to address climate change. Coordination and planning are critical to effective and efficient efforts.

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As shown in figure 1, since 1993, the Office of Management and Budget has reported federal climate change funding in three categories:

  • technology to reduce emissions,
  • science to better understand climate change, and
  • international assistance for developing countries.

Figure 1: Reported Federal Climate Change Funding by Category, 1993-2010

Reported Federal Climate Change Funding by Category, 1993-2010

Notes: In its June 2010 report, OMB began reporting funding for wildlife adaptation as an interim category while criteria are developed to more systematically account for a broader suite of adaptation programs. Funding for wildlife adaptation totaled $65 million in 2010, less than 1 percent of the total, and is not included in this figure.

Funding in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Pub. L. No. 111-5 (2009)) included an additional $25.5 billion for technology and $641 million for science.

Each department and agency is operating under its own set of authorities and responsibilities, and therefore addresses climate change in different ways relevant to its mission. This type of situation demands a strategic framework and a high level of coordination. In the context of providing climate-related information, the National Research Council observed that no single government agency or centralized unit could perform all the required functions, and that coordination of agency roles and regional activities is a necessity. As illustrated in figure 2, many federal entities manage related programs and activities.

Figure 2: Selected Coordination Mechanisms for Federal Climate Change Activities

Selected Coordination Mechanisms for Federal Climate Change Activities

Note: This updated figure was provided to GAO by the Executive Office of the President in February 2015. The original figure was printed in GAO-11-317. See the original image here.

As a result of risks from climate change, fiscal exposure for the federal government has increased in many areas including, for example, federal property and infrastructure, disaster aid, and federal insurance programs. Consequently, Limiting the Federal Government's Fiscal Exposure by Better Managing Climate Change Risks has been on GAO's High Risk List since 2013.

Over the past several years, federal agencies have made progress toward better organizing across and within agencies and among the various levels of government. The U.S. Global Change Research Program (GCRP), for example, is a confederation of the research arms of 13 federal departments and agencies that carry out research and develop supporting the nation's response to climate change. In 2014, GCRP published the National Climate Assessment report, which reviews observed and projected changes in climate in the U.S., impacts of these changes, and options for responding.

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High-Risk Series: An Update

GAO-15-290: Published: Feb 11, 2015. Publicly Released: Feb 11, 2015.

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