Which federal agencies and cabinet departments are most important in determining the existence and causes of climate change?
There are a number of federal agencies responsible for various aspects of examining the causes and effects of climate change.
As the President is Chief Executive of the federal government, he or she sets the tone or the agenda that subordinate departments and agencies are expected to execute. Because of the perceived importance of climate change not just to the United States but to the entire world, the issue receives much high-level attention. In 2009, President Obama established an Interagency Climate Change Adaptation Task Force, chaired by the White House Office of Science and Technology, to coordinate the federal effort at preparing for the consequences of climate change.
Because many aspects of society are directly or indirectly affected by changes in the global climate, many departments and agencies are focused on the problem. Because of the importance of agriculture to world food supplies and to the economies of all agriculture producing countries, the Department of Agriculture has a major stake in understanding the causes and effects of climate change on agriculture. The Environmental Protection Agency, not surprisingly, plays a major role in investigating causes of climate change in an effort at devising and implementing policies and regulations intended to minimize or reverse the problem. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers takes seriously the effects of climate change because of its mission of building and maintaining structures to protect cities and towns, for example, the levees that protect (in the case of Hurricane Katrina, failed to protect) the city of New Orleans against rising sea levels.
Probably the most important federal agency involved in researching climate change is the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). NOAA collects data essential for the study of weather patterns and climate and disseminates that information to other agencies and to the public.
The National Air and Space Administration (NASA) focuses on climate change as part of its mission to support humanity through information gleaned from space. Numerous satellites in space record and transmit information on the earth's atmosphere, on the spread of deforestation, on contraction of this planet's North and South Poles, and more.
As the long-term ramifications of global climate change are better understood, the Department of Defense has begun factoring climate change into how it looks at future potential military contingencies. Because climate change can affect food supplies, water levels in arid regions like the Middle East and North Africa, and the ability of developing countries to adapt to change, the possibility of politically-destabilizing population shifts and massive rioting cannot be discounted, some of which could involve use of the military.