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PCAST suggests 6 key components for climate change strategy to President Obama; adaptation and mitigation

The President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) released a letter to President Obama describing six key components the advisory group believes should be central to the Administration’s strategy for addressing climate change. The letter, responding to a request by the President last fall for input, calls for a dual focus on mitigation and adaptation.

President Obama established the current PCAST in 2010 as an advisory group of leading scientists and engineers who directly advise the President and the Executive Office of the President; one of the members serves as the Assistant to the President for Science and Technology (the Science Advisor). PCAST’s charter is to advise the President on matters involving science, technology, and innovation policy, including, but not limited to, policy that affects science, technology, and innovation, as well as scientific and technical information that is needed to inform public policy relating to the economy, energy, environment, public health, national and homeland security, and other topics.

The first component aims to reduce the damage resulting from changes in climate (“adaptation”), while the last five aim to reduce the pace and magnitude of these changes (“mitigation”). Both approaches are essential parts of an integrated strategy for dealing with climate change. Mitigation is needed to avoid a degree of climate change that would be unmanageable despite efforts to adapt. Adaptation is needed because the climate is already changing and some further change is inevitable regardless of what is done to reduce its pace and magnitude.

—PCAST letter to the President

The six key components are:

1. Focus on national preparedness for climate change, which can help decrease damage from extreme weather events now and speed recovery from future damage.

According to PCAST, a national climate preparedness strategy should include:

  1. mechanisms to create, regularly update, and communicate national climate preparedness plans, including regional assessments and sharing of best practices;

  2. mechanisms to create, regularly update, and communicate to citizens indices of extreme events that capture these leading indicators of climate change on a global, national, and regional basis;

  3. maintenance and improvement of the Nation’s capabilities in weather forecasting and climate-change prediction to help those in harm’s way take actions to protect themselves in both the short- and long-term;

  4. plans for infrastructure modernization that incorporate the impact of future climate change, and also serve to support the development of advanced infrastructure for the 21st century economy; and

  5. changes to Federal policies on disaster relief and insurance to ensure that economic incentives are aligned with long-term safety and security, and that financial capital, when invested following a disaster, is used not just to rebuild, but to rebuild better.

To accomplish those goals, PCAST recommends:

  • Creation of a National Commission on Climate Preparedness charged with recommending an overall framework and blueprint for ongoing data collection, planning, and action.

  • Designating Departments to serve as leads to oversee the annual creation of climate preparedness plans at home and abroad. A logical choice, PCAST said, for domestic preparedness would be the Department of Homeland Security, with the Department of Defense playing the lead role for climate preparedness plans involving events overseas that affect our national security (as they already have responsibility for this).

  • Developing an infrastructure renewal plan that integrates climate preparedness and other benefits to the US’ economy./p>

  • Improving coordination and support for research efforts on climate change preparedness.

2. Continue efforts to decarbonize the economy, with emphasis on the electricity sector. Key recommended steps here are:

  • Support continuing expansion of shale-gas production, ensuring that environmental impacts of production and transport do not curtail the potential of this approach. Continuing substitution of gas for coal (and in some instances for oil) will remain an effective short- and middle-term decarbonization measure and an economic boon only insofar as methane leakage from production and transport is held to low levels and drinking water is not adversely impacted, PVCAST noted.

  • Continue implementation of Clean Air Act requirements on criteria pollutants (such as SO2 and NOx) and hazardous air pollutants (such as mercury) to include creating new performance standards for CO2 emissions from existing stationary sources, which would follow the performance standards for new plants released in March 2012.

  • Accelerate efforts to reduce the regulatory obstacles to deployment of CCS, and continue political support for the large CCS projects currently underway.

3. Level the playing field for clean energy and energy efficiency technologies by removing regulatory obstacles, addressing market failures, adjusting tax policies, and providing time-limited subsidies for clean energy when appropriate.

The PCAST letter suggests as worthy of consideration:

  • Leveling the playing field on access to capital through special tax benefits.

  • Broadening the tax credit for wind to include all forms of renewable energy, replacing the annual renewal with a longer time horizon of 5 to 10 years.

  • Eliminating market failures that prevent the adoption of technologies for energy efficiency.

4. Sustain research on next-generation clean-energy technologies, and remove obstacles for their eventual deployment.

Some technologies are far from being economically competitive today, but are very likely to be important contributors to a low-carbon energy system several decades from now. Examples include electric cars, geothermal heat pumps, and advanced biofuels. As the Nation works to lower greenhouse gas emissions in the next decade, it is critical that investments in “game-changing” research and development on advanced energy technologies continue in order to ensure that at least some of them become competitive in the years ahead.

...A balance is needed between investments that will lower emissions in the near-term and investments, such as “game-changing” research on advanced energy technology that may have only a small effect on emissions over the next few years but will be critical to achieving success in the long run.

—PCAST letter to the President

Recommendations include:

  • Sustaining and, if possible, augmenting the investment in research and development in energy innovation, focusing on the critical technologies that have the potential to dramatically lower our greenhouse gas emissions in the long run.

    PCAST suggests that new emphasis be placed on creative management and reform of applied research programs in nuclear, fossil fuels, renewables, and energy efficiency.

  • Noting that nuclear power requires special attention, PCAST recommends implementation of the recommendations put forward by the Blue Ribbon Commission (BRC) on America’s Nuclear Future.

5. Take additional steps to establish US leadership on climate change internationally. Recommendations here include:

  • Exploring the possibility of a new North American climate agreement.

  • Continuing work towards increased cooperation with China on the climate challenge.

6. Conduct an initial Quadrennial Energy Review (QER). In 2011, the DOE published a Quadrennial Technology Review (QTR) as the first step toward a full QER that would cut across all Federal departments and agencies, as recommended in the November 2010 PCAST Report to the President on Accelerating the Pace of Change in Energy Technologies Through an Integrated Federal Energy Policy.

PCAST recommends official initiation of the full review. The QER will provide an analytical underpinning for policy tradeoffs, such as those between hydrocarbon production, climate change mitigation, and expanded manufacturing. This in turn may help with a more productive bipartisan dialogue on clean energy innovation and the economic, environmental, and security threads of energy policy, PCAST suggests.



Nothing really new or creative in their proposal, fostering shale gas is border line, it is only a mild reduction of CO2 compared to coal. if we want to reduced aggressively CO2 footprint we need to put a price on carbon through a carbon tax so that new technologies can become competitive. Put a tax on carbon emission, and use the money to subsidies new clean energies, that's the way to go. Also emphasize innovation on carbon negative technologies, carbon neutral or less carbon intensive technologies are not enough.

Predrag Raos

Not a single word about nukes, which provide 20% of US electricity and are 100% carbon free! In next 7y their world capacity will increase by 30%, it's fastest growing power-generating technology. Instead of that, all these wind, solar, bioenergy and fracking scams. Are lobbies really that strong, or what?


Convert some coal fired power plants to natural gas combined cycle. We can reduce CO2 emissions AND grow the economy.


Scratch the 'Pawn off failing 'green' car companies that are loaded with US taxpayer support to the Chinese' strategy though since the Chinese apparently are smarter that we are.


Massive extra bureaucracy, almost nothing to reduce climate change.

The single most effective change that can be made is to develop and implement the LFTR. Liquid Flouride Thorium Reactors were proven viable in the late 1960s at Oakridge National Labs. Promises to be MUCH cheaper than conventional nuclear power, in fact some argue cheaper than coal. No long term radio-active waste, inherently safe see:

The BRC seems to be mostly concerned with nuclear waste disposal. LFTRs could burn this waste, turning it into electricity. There is $27B allocated to waste management, and this could fund the entire LFTR program.


We'd grow the economy a lot more by substituting natural gas for petroleum instead of coal.  It would keep far more jobs and economic activity in the USA instead of exporting it.

If you want to get rid of coal, uranium (and/or thorium) is the way to go.


The sooner you start something the less it costs you in the long run and I can't help but think of all the missed opportunities to get a head start on this:

"In 1970 the USA went through its oil production peak and this is now considered as the prime reason for the first oil shock by historians and industry experts.[5] Following this Nixon named James Akins to audit the U.S. production capacity, the result although not provided to the press were alarming : no spare capacity at all and production could only decrease." Instead of increasing fuel effiency America increased imports. It took the 1973 oil crisis to wake people up - until the prices went down again.

"In 1979, in the midst of an oil crisis, then-president Jimmy Carter tried to lead the nation to a brighter future powered by alternative energy via a symbolic gesture: installing solar panels on the roof of the White House. But instead of being inspired, the American people were freaked by Carter’s proposed program of conservation, carpooling, and cardigans, and promptly kicked him out the of Oval Office. Ronald Reagan shelved most of Carter’s ambitious energy plans, and in 1986 removed the solar panels from the roof."

In 1988 James Hansen gave testimony before the United States Congress about global warming. What answer did he get? 'Lets wait and see.'

In 2000 George W. Bush beat Al Gore, because of a little trouble counting votes - in a state his brother was the Governor of;
'nough said.

And even just 4 years ago, when Obama took office. The Republicans decided they would oppose EVERYTHING he did "out of hand" and say NO regardless of its merits - even regardless of whether or not they supported it previously.

"Just as I thought it was going alright
I found out how wrong when I thought I was right
Its always the same its just a shame thats all
I could say day, and you'd say night
Tell me it's black when I know thats it's white
It's always the same it's just a shame that's all"


We've known what the problem was for long enough to do something about it before "mitigation" should have been needed;


We have 700,000 tons of depleted uranium from enrichment, use some U233 from thorium, then we have enough energy to power the whole country for the next 1000 years.

This is why we need to reduce public and private debt. When we really need to do these programs we will have the money to do them. No more rich getting MUCH richer at everyone else's expense.

Kit P

“Continuing substitution of gas for coal ”

This is like telling a alcoholic that beer is a substitute for wine. How do you know people are not serious about solving a problem? When they focus on politically correct but ineffective solutions.

It has been about 15 years since I in grad school for environmental engineering. I have binders full of solutions and studies. The two worse ways to make power for ghg are coal and natural gas.

We also know what policies work to promote sources with low ghg emissions. RPS and PTC is working very well. Germany has had success with feed in tariffs.

“Promises to be MUCH cheaper than conventional nuclear power, in fact some argue cheaper than coal. ”

LWR already produce electricity much cheaper than coal. The '$27B allocated to waste management' was paid by utilities making electricity with LWR. Roy are you advocating defrauding rate payers? That sounds like a racketeering conspiracy. Not a wise thing to do on the internet. Nuclear waste is not a technical problem.

“Carter’s ambitious energy plans ”

AGW was not an issue back then. None the less, the renewable energy projects that have stood the test of time have been geothermal and biomass.

Many comments here focus on the symbolic and not what works.

“In 2000 George W. Bush ”

Yes, as governor of Texas, Bush was leading the resurgence of renewable energy from Texas not Clinton from the DC. By Mar 2001, we had a published NATIONAL ENERGY POLICY. Bush made reducing ghg emissions a priority and was very effective at that task.

There are the Bush haters who ignore these accomplishments. The mistake Obama has made is declaring war on energy. Both Clinton and Obama have failed to get AGW legislation passed.

“oppose EVERYTHING ”

Not really, we oppose shutting down coal plants until new nuke plants are on line. We get tired of those who have lot of renewable energy resources and no coal telling us how to make power. I think that wind turbines in wheat field are great but the Blue Ridge Parkway was not build to be a access roads for wind turbines that would only make power a small fraction of the time.


The difference between Bush: Governor of Texas and Bush: President of America was Dick Cheney: Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of Halliburton.


Some estimates show that a reservoir of 37, 000 billion tonnes of CO2 is buried in the ground as oil, coal and gas. The largest portion of this CO2 reservoir is in coal, and the second largest is in natural gas. This is a chilling reminder of what is in store for the planet, should we decide to continue to burn fossil fuels without any restrictions. Experts estimate that emission of 2,500 billion tonnes of CO2 - a mere 7% of the existing stock of fossil fuels - will result in a doubling of pre-industrial concentrations of CO2.


The National Energy Policy Development Group completed its report in the beginning of 2001. The 169- page report, released on May 17, 2001, was titled the National Energy Policy (NEP).

Included in the proposed policy is the importance of energy efficiency and conservation. Using energy wisely is cited as the first challenge for the nation, as this will lessen the burden on our finances and the environment. The second listed challenge was to repair and add onto the existing network of refineries, pipelines, generators and transmission lines. It was stated that the refining and distribution of natural gas was effected by an inefficient and inadequate infrastructure, and that this issue could be remedied by 38,000 miles of new pipeline and 255,000 miles of distribution lines. The third challenge is "increasing energy supplies while protecting the environment". This section states that although renewable energy is a hope for the future, it will be many years until this energy is sufficient for the nations current needs, and therefore the requirements must be met using the available means.
In 2001, the energy task force that Cheney had commenced in secret finally went public. Soon afterwards, the United States House of Representatives approved the measures and decided to legalize the new policy set forth by Cheney. Upon revision of the policy it was evident that many of the regulations and recommendations were pro-Oil company. The policy assigned little accountability for mistakes or harmful actions to those in authority, especially the government officials. This policy was to provide very specific guidelines to run the Energy Task Force efficiently and effectively.

The NEP was intended to be a directive with clear instructions on how to proceed with the new task force. Despite the fact that renewable energy was the purpose behind establishing this force, only 7 of the 105 recommendations in the final report referenced renewable energy. Many of the big oil companies were benefiting from the policy. There is some speculation that some of the congressmen profited from the policy due to the major contributions they got from these companies.

Most of the activities of the Energy Task Force have not been disclosed to the public, even though Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests (since 19 April 2001) have sought to gain access to its materials. The organisations Judicial Watch and Sierra Club launched a law suit (U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia: Judicial Watch Inc. v. Department of Energy, et al., Civil Action No. 01-0981) under the FOIA to gain access to the task force's materials. After several years of legal wrangling, in May, 2005 an appeals court permitted the Energy Task Force's records to remain secret.

On April 4, 2001, representatives of 13 environmental groups, including Erich Pica of Friends of the Earth and Anna Aurilio of the U.S. Public Interest Group, met with the Task Force (although not with Vice President Cheney personally). Environmental groups have speculated that this meeting was an attempt to appease them, since it is reported that a draft paper had already been produced at the time of this meeting and that half of the meeting was spent on various members introducing themselves. No further meetings between the task force and the environmental groups were reported, although there had been at least 40 meetings between the task force and representatives of the energy industry and its interest groups.

The Washington Post reported on November 15, 2005, that it had obtained documents listing executives from major oil corporations, including Exxon-Mobil Corp., Conoco, Royal Dutch Shell Oil Corp., and the American subsidiary of British Petroleum who met with Energy Task Force participants while they were developing national energy policy. Vice President Cheney was reported to have met personally with the Chief Executive Officer of BP (formerly British Petroleum) during the time of the Energy Task Force's activities. In the week prior to this article revealing oil executive involvement, the Chief Executives of Exxon-Mobil and ConocoPhillips told members of the US Senate that they had not participated as part of the Energy Task Force, while the CEO of British Petroleum stated that he did not know. In response to questions regarding the article, Cheney spokesperson Lea Ann McBride was quoted as saying that the courts have upheld "the constitutional right of the president and vice president to obtain information in confidentiality."

On July 18, 2007, The Washington Post reported the names of those involved in the Task Force, including at least 40 meetings with interest groups, most of them from energy-producing industries. Among those in the meetings were James J. Rouse, then vice president of Exxon Mobil and a major donor to the Bush inauguration; Kenneth L. Lay, then head of Enron Corp.; Jack N. Gerard, then with the National Mining Association; Red Cavaney, president of the American Petroleum Institute; and Eli Bebout, an old friend of Cheney's from Wyoming who serves in the state Senate and owns an oil and drilling company.


Bush of Texas had promise. Presidential candidate George W. Bush unveiled an environmental plan that would have required power plants to reduce emissions of four main pollutants. If elected, Bush said he would propose legislation requiring “electric utilities to reduce emissions and significantly improve air quality.” Specifically, he promised to “work with Congress, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Energy, consumer and environmental groups, and industry to develop legislation that will establish mandatory reduction targets for emissions of four main pollutants: sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, mercury, and carbon dioxide.” broke that promise within two months of taking office. You can blame Cheney for that.

Kit P

"This is why we need to reduce public and private debt."

It depends a lot on your assets being greater than your debt. Public works projects have long been used to create jobs during periods of high unemployment.

If 30 years from now that energy project is still making power then it will be worth money borrowed.

I also do not have a problem with people getting rich making my life better.

Kit P

“in secret ”

The meeting were not televised but it was common knowledge who was present. The CEO of the company I worked at the time held a press conference afterward. Investigative journalism is not calling what well informed people already know a secret.

“Soon afterwards ”

It was the 2005 Energy Bill.

“NEP was intended to be a directive ”

No, it was a policy.

It is amazing how many will not read the actual documents but spend time reading what journalist write.

“The 169- page report, ”

Of course, there is no such report from Obama.

“broke that promise within two months of taking office ”

This is an example of how the Bush haters made up reasons to hate Bush. Significant legislation was passed requiring existing coal plants that had been built before the CAA to meet new plant standards. This cost about $300 million per plant which is why you are see so many old coal plants shut down.


It depends a lot on your assets being greater than your debt. Public works projects have long been used to create jobs during periods of high unemployment.

Try telling that to the Party of "NO."


This is an example of how the Bush haters made up reasons to hate Bush.

Given that Bush's approval rating dropped to 22% by the time he left office I'd say the reasons to hate him were many. And given that during the last election even members of his own party who were seeking the nomination worked so hard to avoid his support, I'd say the only people left who have a need to still defend him do so out of ego: They can believe they would ever make the mistake of voting for such loser so.... he can't be a loser.


One of the words used in a new book was "hubris" that involves arrogance. When you have arrogance and incompetence in one person, you have G.W. Bush.


Kit P, you have many comments, but one you might explain a bit for me:

None the less, the renewable energy projects that have stood the test of time have been geothermal and biomass.

Wind power production has grown 20-fold since 2000, solar 10-fold. On the other hand, geothermal and biomass have been languishing, with no growth at all. Wind power alone generates twice as much power as geothermal and biomass combined. Solar will surpass geothermal this year.


Biofuels for cars are not a happy story either, with lots of pressure to reduce production because of last year's crop failures.

I would say that wind and solar have stood the test of time much better than the technologies that you mention. So my question to you is: what is your criterion for "standing the test of time"?

I have a feeling that you look too much at the merits of the technology in isolation, without seeing the big picture. I will easily concede that from a grid operator's perspective geothermal and biomass are superior sources, since they to not depend on the weather. But the big picture here is that there has to be enough capacity available to scale up. In the case of geothermal and biomass, that simply hasn't been the case. Imo they will serve the role of balancing wind and solar, and are therefore of vital importance. But in terms of raw generating power, wind and solar will dominate.

Kit P

“since 2000 ”

I hope you know that Jimmy Carter was not president in 2000.

“Wind power production has grown 20-fold since 2000, solar 10-fold. On the other hand, geothermal and biomass have been languishing, with no growth at all. ”

Here is what is wrong with Anne thinking if you goal is to reduce ghg emissions. You have to look at look at how much power is produced over time. It is a contest either. Money is paid for power produced not for being pretty or smart of fastest growing.

For 2011 in the US :

Solar = 0.05%
Wood + biomass = 1.5%
Geothermal = 0.4%
Hydroelectric = 8%
Wind 2.9%

Now we should look at California which was a renewable energy leader back when Carter was president but lost the leadership to Texas when was Governor.

At this time (7 am PST) on the CAL ISO:
Solar = 0 MWe
Wood + biomass = 550 MWe
Geothermal = 920 MWe
Wind = 300 MWe

The total for yesterday on the CAL ISO:
Solar = 12,000 MWh
Wood + biomass = 12,500 MWh
Geothermal = 21,300 MWe
Wind = 32,300 MWh

“I would say that wind and solar have stood the test of time much better than the technologies that you mention. ”

Then you would be wrong.

“what is your criterion for "standing the test of time"? ”

That would power plants that still work 25 years after being built.

Geothermal power plants at the Geysers in California since 1960.

My favorite old biomass plant is Kettle Falls. Like many plants built at the time the purpose of the plant was to improve air quality associated with burning waste biomass.

Reducing ghg emissions takes a holistic approach. The long hanging fruit of ghg reduction is capturing powerful ghg such as methane and nitrous oxide and turning those gases into CO2. Since rotting biomass is also one of the biggest sources of pollution, making power with it is a win-win situation.

Of course biomass is not very sexy like wind and solar. However, there are millions of anaerobic digesters (AD) around the world. I have visited one that has been producing 90 kwe since the early 80s using chicken manure. The solids make beautiful compost. AD captures 90% of the nitrogen and stores it in the compost to grow food. That makes it a win-win situation.

Feed in tariffs in Germany have resulted in a large number of AD on farms.

“without seeing the big picture ”

That is my complaint against wind and solar advocates. While they claim to love the environment, they have never bothered to grace a classroom of higher learning to learn the big picture.

“the merits of the technology ”

I am an engineer in the power industry. Wind and solar at best do not work very well. The only reason we build them is to make people like Anne happy. People like Anne do not see the big picture. Show them a picture of a solar panel or a wind turbine they are happy. They never ask how well they work.

“wind and solar will dominate ”

They have to stand the test of time. For that to happen, you have to pay people like to keep them working. The second thing is you have to have good wind and solar resources which most of do not have. Third, you have to get the rest of to think there is a good reason. A good reason does not exist.

Kit P

“Biofuels for cars are not a happy story either, ”

Really! When was the last time you talked to a farmer?

City folks are such whiners about the environment. It is no wonder, they surround themselves in a car infested cesspool and then worry about AGW.

One of the great policy successes in the 2005 energy bill was biofuels. The purpose was not to reduce ghg gas but to encourage an alternative to imported oil and create a market for excess US farm production. Every American now has the opportunity to buy 10% renewable energy in their gasoline.

Kit P

“They can believe they would ever make the mistake of voting for such loser so.... he can't be a loser. ”

How bored am I, debating US politics with a Canadian? The snow is pretty!

I do regret voting for Jimmy Carter. It was the first time I was old enough to vote. I remember telling my mom I would vote for Humphrey if I was old enough. I was still in high school and worried about the draft. I dodged the draft by joining the navy. My next choice was between Nixon and McGovern.

The point here is that Americans have a choice for two candidates and one of the most important criteria are effectively dealing with other world leaders and the domestic economy. I did not read about the 70's and 80's from reading a text book, I was there. If there was confusion, tearing down the Berlin Wall offered a moment of clarity.

We are now living in a era when nuclear weapons are being destroyed and the US is the dominant military power. With nuclear world war (nuclear winter) behind us, AGW ironically has replaced it. Who were the two most ineffective world leaders when comes to AGW? That would be Clinton/Gore.

It is a Nixon going to China thing. The problem with liberals that they are really inept at getting engineering things done. While the science of climate change is complex, the engineering of doing something about is simple. Bush was the POTUS who restarted renewable energy.

Those are the facts. If a Canadian thinks I am wrong based on opinion polls, it is just another example of his politics being more important than the environment.


My earliest political regret is voting for Joe Clark.


Bush was the POTUS who restarted renewable energy.

He also brought Dick Cheney back to the White House.

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