NASA has big plans to fight against climate change and its devastating global impacts with a new climate action plan the agency released on Thursday (Oct. 7).
Climate change and its effects pose such an imminent threat to life as we know it around the world that it is now described as the "climate crisis," as the United Nations has written. U.S. President Joe Biden aims to tackle the crisis with a "whole-of-government" approach that uses the National Climate Task Force, which includes leaders from dozens of federal agencies and departments, according to a White House statement (opens in new tab). As part of this approach, NASA (along with 22 other large agencies) has developed a new climate action plan.
"NASA has unique assets it must protect — scientific equipment and capabilities that allow us to understand this climate crisis on Earth as well as explore the universe," NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in a NASA statement (opens in new tab). "Thankfully, we have the ingenuity and engineering capability to ensure our agency’s resources remain resilient from this growing threat. NASA is committed to safeguarding our mission in the decades to come, and through the data we provide to the world, we’ll help other agencies make sure they can do the same."
The climate action plans for all 23 federal agencies involved, and you can read the full text here (opens in new tab).
While so many different federal agencies are contributing to this approach, NASA is one of just a few agencies that conducts its own climate research. NASA scientists have been using tools like Earth-monitoring satellites to study Earth's climate and collect valuable data for many years. This has included the study of ice loss, ozone levels, sea-level rise, temperature, precipitation, extreme weather and much more, NASA described in the statement.
However, with its expansive infrastructure, NASA's facilities not only contribute to climate knowledge — they are also threatened by the impacts of climate change, NASA said in the statement, adding that two-thirds of NASA assets are in locations at especially high risk.
In fact, according to the NASA statement, about "two-thirds of agency assets when measured by replacement value are located within 16 feet of mean sea level along America’s coasts. Some of these assets are located in areas already experiencing high water levels and other impacts from sea level rise. Temperature, precipitation, and extreme weather events are expected to affect others."
With both its assets and concerns in mind, NASA developed its climate action plan and submitted it for review by the National Climate Task Force, the White House Council on Environmental Quality’s Federal Chief Sustainability Officer and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).
NASA's plan includes five main areas of focus:
- Identifying aspects of climate change that threaten access to space;
- Integrating climate risk analysis and adaptation strategies into NASA's overall plans;
- Integrating climate change resilience planning information into NASA's plans for its centers;
- Developing next-generation climate models and updating climate modeling techniques;
- Collaborating with partners in aviation to reduce carbon dioxide and develop climate solutions.
Members of the public can share feedback on NASA's climate action plan, as well as the plans from the 22 other agencies until Nov. 6, 2021, by submitting comments here.