Climate Advisory Panel Disbanded by Trump Is Revived
But Not By the Feds.


In August 2017, the Trump administration dissolved an advisory committee charged with translating the findings of the periodic National Climate Assessment down to practical local and regional levels. The dismissal drew protests from around the country. Now, a private and public coalition has counterattacked, reconstituting the committee with support from Columbia University’s Earth Institute, the state of New York, and other partners.

A 1990s federal statute requires that a comprehensive report on climate change be delivered to the government every four years. The most recent scientific findings, produced by academic scientists and 13 federal agencies, were published in November 2017. As expected, they were dire: ongoing sea-level rise, extreme weather and other damaging effects, driven by human action and predicted to intensify. President Obama previously issued an order to form an advisory committee to translate the broad national findings down to more granular levels so that towns, counties, states and businesses could consider how to take appropriate actions. The committee, first convened in 2016, included academics, local officials and businesspeople.

In August 2017, the Trump administration allowed the committee’s charter to expire, effectively disbanding it. The move followed the administration’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate accord, and other actions to ignore or deny the effects of changing climate. A fuller National Climate Assessment on the economic and societal implications of the science is due in 2018. But critics of the administration have feared that without the planned added report from the advisory committee, the national assessment would be less useful.

As a visiting scholar at Columbia’s Earth Institute, Richard Moss will reconvene an advisory committee for the National Climate Assessment.
Photo: Peter Bronsteen.

Effective Jan. 1, the Earth Institute has brought on Richard Moss, the former chairman of the Federal Advisory Committee for the National Climate Assessment, as a visiting senior research scientist in the Earth Institute’s Research Program on Sustainability Policy and Management. In his role, Moss will reestablish the panel, and deliver the report that the committee originally set out to write. The Earth Institute is supplying financial and logistical support as well as office space for the effort. The committee is expected to meet in New York in coming months, and produce a draft report for review by experts and the public by the end of June, similar to its original intended schedule.

On Jan. 2, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office announced that the state would help reconvene the committee. Cuomo is co-chair of the United States Climate Alliance, which includes New York and 14 other states that have announced their intention to follow through on the Paris accords. “In the absence of guidance from the Advisory Committee, decision-makers will have limited ability to know how climate change will impact their organizations and communities, and what they can do to better plan,” said an official statement. New York will help the committee “continue its critical work without political interference and provide the guidance needed to adapt to a changing climate.” The state is expected to provide as-yet unspecified funding, and other states in the alliance may also pitch in. The committee is also receiving financial and administrative support from the American Meteorological Society.

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