Top 5 Weather & Climate Challenges Facing White House

Andrew Freedman has an interesting post on this subject on his blog at Climate Central. He tees up the subject this way:

“As President Obama approaches the start of his second term, the country faces a growing list of climate and weather-related challenges. Some of these, like addressing global warming, are long-term and high-profile challenges that have only grown more urgent during the past four years. Others, such as grappling with how to improve weather and climate forecasting despite limited resources, are newcomers to the agenda.

How the Obama administration handles these issues, and more, will help determine how resilient the U.S. will become in the face of weather and climate extremes, two of which – the year-long drought, and Hurricane Sandy – were center stage in 2012. Some of these kinds of events are already becoming more frequent and severe due in part to global warming.

Hurricane Sandy’s impacts were exacerbated by climate change-related sea level rise, and the storm was powered in part by warmer-than-average sea surface temperatures. Sandy’s final price tag may exceed $100 billion.

In addition, the costs of the worst U.S. drought since the 1950s, which has earned comparisons to the infamous 1930s “Dust Bowl” era, also might exceed the $100 billion mark, and its impacts are already being felt worldwide through higher food prices. The drought was most likely triggered by natural climate variability, but global warming-related heat waves exacerbated the drought conditions, making it a more severe event than it otherwise might have been.

With a satellite infrastructure that is set to atrophy over the coming decades — which may make weather forecasts less accurate — and a budget crunch that is already squeezing the main federal agency responsible for weather and climate forecasting, it will require strong leadership and a wise investment strategy to keep the U.S. at the forefront of international weather and climate science.”

Well said.

Here’s Mr. Freedman’s list:

  1. Building a more weather and climate resilient society
  2. Maintaining weather and climate observation and forecasting capabilities
  3. Climate change mitigation
  4. Containing the rising costs of natural disasters
  5. A revised climate research agenda

The rest of Mr. Freedman’s content lives up to the title (a signature trait!). Hopefully you’ll find/make time for a fuller read, maybe take the time to explore his blog further.

The post is interesting in its own right, but also as a starting point for further reflection. Your ideas on this topic would be most welcome here. If you wanted to advise the President on what he should give priority in the area of weather and climate, what would you say?

Looking forward to your comments.

In the meantime, if I’m asking you to do this, I shouldn’t exempt myself. So here are two thoughts, stimulated by Mr. Freedman’s piece (thank you, Andrew!).

President Obama could lead, shape, provide adult supervision for a national dialog. Outside the White House, the American people have been discussing Mr. Freedman’s five topics, in one way or another, for some time. Occasionally, maybe even often, the conversation turns rancorous; the participants struggle to maintain focus on the substantive issues, and find it easier or more natural to quarrel instead over the disputatious bits.

A major challenge for the president might be to find some way to convene and initiate a national conversation that develops a consensus, that brings us together, on the entire universe spanning the five issues listed above. The idea is not to resolve any of the specifics so much as set into motion and enable the creation of a space fostering open, welcoming, reasoned  discussion not just on these topics but many other environmental issues. The challenge is rather similar to that he faces in steering us clear of the fiscal cliff. If he can succeed in the latter task – and Americans are wishing him every success – then perhaps he can succeed in the former.

Use this domestic success to drive similar progress on this set of issues worldwide. Analysts agree that should the United States seize this moment to map a way forward to put its fiscal house in order… providing stimulus in the short term but bringing the federal budget into balance over time, that the effect on the global economy, and the U.S. position in world affairs, would be electrifying. In the same way, a balanced national approach to natural resource-, environmental-, and hazards issues would contribute to a similar outcome on every continent.

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2 Responses to Top 5 Weather & Climate Challenges Facing White House

  1. Bill:-

    I’ll try to be brief, but this is a topic that I could go on and on on. If it were me, I’d invest in our weather infrastructure. We need to be able to provide accurate warnings even farther out than we did so well for Sandy. I would absolutely not invest in silly carbon reduction schemes. I have expounded at some length on Sandy and the purported link to global warming at,

    As far as building a more resilient society (and I’d prefer to not focus just on weather), we need to invest in our people. Better education, more reliable – and trusted! – sources of information, better connected neighborhoods… Not big money, but a recognition that Big Government is a big part of the reason we are becoming a less resilient nation.

    Reducing the costs of disasters. To wax Shakespearean, “The fault is not in our stars [or our atmosphere!], but in ourselves.” We’re building in risky places, and not forcing those who want to rebuild there to build back better. Over on Recovery Diva, I said:

    “Let’s give this talk of global warming somehow being the “cause” of Sandy a rest and fix the real problems:
    • Help form natural barriers to storms.
    • Don’t encourage building in dangerous places.
    • Base flood insurance premiums on risk and not political clout.
    • Overthrow the Tyranny of the Old Normal, and make those who want to rebuild in dangerous areas build back better.

    I would add that I’m not saying to discourage rebuilding in dangerous places – to me, that should be an individual’s choice (see my blog at” I would add here that if we force those who want to rebuild in risky places away, they are likely less resilient, as indicated in the blog. Let them make their own choice, just don’t subsidize stupidity as we do now.

    Off my soapbox for tonight…

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