The collective effect of local, state, and private sector efforts to respond to climate change is significant and should be encouraged, but such efforts are not likely to be sufficient or sustainable over the long term without a strong framework of federal policies and programs that ensure all U.S. stakeholders are working toward coherent national goals.

As described briefly in this chapter and explored in the ACC panel reports, there are already many efforts under way across the United States (led by state and local governments, and private sector and nongovernmental organizations) to reduce domestic GHG emissions, to adapt to anticipated impacts of climate change, and to advance systems for collecting and sharing climate-related information. Although there can be real benefits to having these actions take place in such a decentralized fashion,20 in the judgment of the committee the many risks posed by climate change—coupled with the scale and scope of responses needed to respond effectively—demand national-level leadership and coordination. The appropriate balance between federal and nonfederal responsibilities depends on the domain of action. The ACC panel reports provide detailed discussion about the different types of federal leadership and coordination efforts that are most needed in the domains of advancing scientific understanding, limiting the magnitude of climate change, adapting to its impacts, and informing effective decisions.

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