America is woefully unprepared for climate change, and the government agencies charged with delivering the latest science to decision makers are not up to the task, a new report said today.
The National Research Council, a policy advice centre that is part of the US National Academy of Sciences, said that government agencies and political leaders, concerned more than ever about climate change, were not getting the information or the guidance they needed.
"Many decision makers are experiencing or anticipating a new climate regime and are asking questions about climate change and potential responses to it that federal agencies are unprepared to answer," the council said in its report, Restructuring Federal Climate Research to Meet the Challenges of Climate Change.
"Robust and effective responses to climate change demand a vastly improved body of scientific knowledge."
The report called for an expansion of federal government research into global warming, as well as a "transformational change" in how scientific research is conducted and incorporated into public policy.
It said government scientists, such as those at the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, needed to pay greater attention to the human dimension of climate change - its effects on food supply, public health and the environment.
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Government researchers also needed to forge strong connections across different scientific disciplines and linking the worlds of natural and social science, said the non-profit institution which aims to improve government decision making and public policy.
The committee that produced the report called for the creation of a national climate service, and for further research to determine which parts of the country would be most vulnerable to global warming.
It drew on New York City as an extreme example of the decisions facing government leaders. Greening New York "will take literally thousands of individual decisions in order to upgrade existing municipal buildings, including firehouses, police precincts, sanitation garages, offices and courthouses," the report said.
But although government is increasingly focused on dealing with climate change, it appears that the US public is not.
A record number of Americans - some 41% - now believe the danger of climate change has been exaggerated in the mainstream media, a new Gallup poll found. In contrast, only 28% thought the media had downplayed the dangers of global warming.
The rise of climate change doubters was among Republican and non-affiliated voters - but not Democrats - and was confined to those above the age of 30.