This Thursday (7), the NASA released an action plan with the aim of avoiding the impacts of climate change on its missions, “ensuring the resilience of facilities and assets and providing the world with unique observations, analyzes and climate models through scientific research”.

NASA and other US federal agencies have pledged to President Joe Biden for action on climate change. Image: Pauras / Shutterstock.com

The plan is part of the US President's approach, Joe Biden, to involve the entire government in tackling the climate crisis. Federal agencies face escalating maintenance and repair costs due to more frequent extreme weather events, health and safety challenges for employees who work outside the home, and potential issues with the effectiveness of their programs.

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To address these and other challenges, President Biden prioritized the federal agency's climate resilience and adaptation planning. Through this approach, NASA and 22 other major agencies have developed plans to address their most significant climate risks and vulnerabilities.

According to the space agency's administrator, NASA has unique assets that it must protect. "We have scientific equipment and capabilities that allow us to understand this climate crisis on Earth, as well as explore the universe."

“Fortunately, we have the ingenuity and engineering ability to ensure that our agency's resources remain resilient to this growing threat,” he said. "NASA is committed to safeguarding our mission for decades to come, and through the data we provide the world, we will help other agencies ensure they can do the same."

In order to minimize the effects of climate change and avoid worse scenarios, NASA's action plan involves addressing priorities of each sector of the agency. Image: Aphelleon – Shutterstock

NASA's action plan will be ongoing

According to the agency itself, NASA is one of the few federal entities that conduct climate research and provide essential data for governments, private companies and others around the world. 

“Thanks to decades of commitment to supporting scientists and deploying technology, NASA's climate-related research covers solar activity, sea level rise, ocean and atmospheric temperatures, ozone layer conditions, air pollution, gas levels. greenhouse effect and changes in sea and land ice,” says the agency's statement.

Even so, its facilities, vehicles, equipment and infrastructure face threats related to climate change. Approximately two-thirds of the agency's assets, when measured at replacement value, are located less than 5 meters from mean sea level along the US coasts. 

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Some of these assets are located in areas that are already experiencing high water levels and other impacts caused by rising sea level. Temperature, precipitation and extreme weather events affect other aspects.

In response to the president's executive order, the agencies submitted their plans for review by the National Climate Task Force, the White House Environmental Quality Council's Federal Sustainability Directorate, and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). 

Through these plans, agencies will incorporate projects and adapt all of their operations and programs, continually updating their adaptation plans.

Learn about NASA's climate change planning

In addition to these plans, President Biden's agenda and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Agreement include bold, historic and transformational investments to strengthen resilience to climate change and extreme weather events.

To ensure accountability, NASA's program identifies employees and areas of the agency responsible for addressing its priorities and sectors of focus. Strategic priorities in NASA's plan include:

  • Ensure access to space. NASA will identify climate change-related vulnerabilities that threaten access to space, conduct risk assessments and develop risk reduction strategies to allow prioritization of adaptations;
  • Integrate climate adaptation into master plans. The agency wants to work to better integrate climate risk analysis and adaptation strategies into facilities and infrastructure project prioritization processes;
  • Integrate climate change into risk analysis and resilience planning. The results of the resilience planning will be integrated into the master plans of their centers and into the operation and maintenance processes;
  • Update climate modeling to better understand threats and vulnerabilities. Modern climate models will be developed, generating improved data on the Earth's water and energy cycle and creating a link between the agency's climate science data and its Geographic Information Systems. These actions will help NASA and other agencies improve their risk planning;
  • Advancement of aeronautical research to reduce climate change contributors. NASA promises to collaborate with partners to develop and implement aviation solutions that enable climate adaptation, while supporting the aviation community's goal of aggressively reducing carbon dioxide emissions.

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