Which federal agencies formulate and execute policies regarding climate change?

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pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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There are many government agencies that are involved in one way or another with issues that have to do with global warming and climate change. 

One of the most important is the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration (better known as NOAA).  This agency is the one that is most closely involved in things like monitoring the climate to determine how it is changing.  It is involved in trying to understand what impacts this will have on climate and weather in various parts of the United States.  Another agency that is involved in this sort of thing to some degree is the US Geological Survey (USGS).  USGS is also involved in the study of climate change.

One agency that is involved with trying to create policy to mitigate the effects of climate change is the Department of Energy.  It is involved in trying to determine the amount of greenhouse gases being emitted and in finding ways to reduce those emissions.  The Environmental Protection Agency is also involved in this to some degree.

For a longer list of agencies involved, please follow this link.

mybrothermycroft's profile pic

mybrothermycroft | In Training Educator

Posted on

Strictly speaking, this question asks who formulates and who executes policy, and it restricts the question to federal agencies. But let's look a little more broadly.

First, Congress defines the broad issues of how the government enacts policies with regards to climate change. It does so by creating or modifying agencies and by writing legislation to address specific issues it considers important. 

Second, many interpretations of that legislation end up in front of the courts, who increasingly have had a greater hand in deciding issues involving climate change. 

But among the agencies themselves, we have those who monitor, those who manage, and those who enforce. Among the monitors we have agencies such as NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) and US Geological Survey (USGS); they collect data and prepare briefs on critical changes in the climate. Other agencies who also monitor include Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and various fisheries and wildlife agencies. 

Among those who manage are the Department of Agriculture, US Forestry Service, and Department of Energy, to name a few. They are empowered to define practices in farming, logging, fuel use, and other areas that can have an effect on climate change.

When it comes to enforcing, the lead agency -- as the name suggests -- is the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The EPA has statutory powers to enforce actions that the other agencies mentioned often do not. An EPA notice can close down a business and the EPA can extend well beyond its legislative mandate to take action on hazards causing climate change. Where the EPA may not have full power to act, as in the case of commercial long-haul trucks, other agencies such as the Department of Transportation and Department of Energy may step in. However for most practical matters involving climate change, the lead enforcer is the EPA. It counts on many Federal and state agencies to provide it with the data to support its position and to identify violators. And certain major parts of the environmental economy that involve large-scale policy such as acceptable crops or logging practices are managed by other agencies better equipped to deal with the issues. 

jpgwolf37's profile pic

jpgwolf37 | (Level 2) Assistant Educator

Posted on

The two federal agencies most actively involved in formulating and implementing policies to address climate change are the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). That said, each of these agencies plays a very different role in affecting climate change policies.

One way to think about it is this: The Department of Energy is the proverbial carrot, while the EPA is the stick.

The Department of Energy acts as catalyst and incubator for renewable energy technologies, allocating funds to private companies and non-profit entities like universities, which in turn invest in solar, wind, alternative biofuels, hydrogen cell technology, and other forms of renewable energies that cannot yet compete with cheaper but dirtier fossil fuels without government subsidies. 

The Environmental Protection Agency, by contrast, creates rules to limit pollution and force companies to behave in environmentally responsible ways. For instance, the EPA's CAFE Standards (Corporate Average Fuel Efficiency) has forced carmakers to create ever more fuel efficient vehicles. This particular regulation has dramatically improved our air quality, and created the incentives necessary for the rise of hybrid and electric cars.

westievt's profile pic

westievt | In Training Educator

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According to a 2012 report by the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, a federal interagency task force comprised of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, the Office of Technology Policy, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and representatives of 20 federal agencies was formed to develop recommendations on how the policies and practices of federal agencies could impact climate change strategies across the federal government.  

These programs and projects continue to evolve in several federal agencies, and research is ongoing under the U.S. Global Change Research Program.

The newly signed Global Agreement on Climate Change -- the so-called "Paris Accord" -- includes 190 nations including the U.S. agreeing on goals to reduce carbon emissions by 32 percent by 2030.


annagarner's profile pic

annagarner | In Training Educator

Posted on

There are multiple federal agencies engaged in the policy making that pertains to climate change, since it is an issue with wide ranging potential consequences. The National Ocean and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) is instrumental in gathering data that provides scientific backing to policy. 

Department of Energy adjusts policies to minimize potential negative impacts to climate change as well. 

These agencies are members of the Climate Change Working Group which includes a host of other federal agencies involved in the policies associated with climate change.


zbarnes's profile pic

zbarnes | Middle School Teacher | In Training Educator

Posted on

There are many organizations within the federal government that track global warning. National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration, or NOAA, is the leading group tracking and predicting what will happen with global warning. There are many scientists involved with the NOAA. They also track weather patterns. This organization does more of the tracking and scientific work behind global warming. Another organization is the US Environmental Protection Agency, or the EPA. The EPA was created by congress to protect the environment and the people living in the environment of the USA and the globe. While the NOAA does the research behind global warming, the EPA directs policy and enforces the policies around the United State.  

gsenviro's profile pic

gsenviro | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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The federal agencies that are part of the Climate Change Working Group include the following:

  • Department of Agriculture, Global Climate Change
  • Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Climate; Climate Change Program; Office of General Counsel for International Law 
  • Department of Energy (DoE): Energy Information Administration, Environment: energy-related emission data and environmental analyses; Office of Biological and Environmental Research, Climate and Environmental Science Division
  • Department of Health and Human Services, Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Climate Change and Public Health
  • Department of Housing and Urban Development, Community Planning and Development, Green Homes and Communities
  • Department of Interior, US Geological Survey (USGS), Climate Change Science; National Wetlands Research Center
  • Department of Justice, Environmental Management System
  • Department of State, Climate Change
  • Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Commission

Among these agencies, the NOAA and DoE carry out a dominant portion of climate change related work in the United States. Each of these departments/agencies has their own jurisdiction and works within those bounds.


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