National Adaptation Service

What is a National Adaptation Service?

A National Adaptation Service would promote communication and coordination among the various governmental entities currently providing climate services (i.e., NOAA’s Regional Integrated Science as Assessments, USGS Climate Adaptation Science Centers, USDA’s Climate Hubs, Sea Grant Extensions, Agricultural Extension) in the absence of an organized unit. It would also fill sectoral, geographical, and topical gaps in the current patchwork of services and provide added personnel help to meet the growing demand for technical support and develop the field.

The National Adaptation Service would be an adaptation analog to the Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service, linking federal and state governments with universities and other partners to promote collaborative research and learning. This learning is synthesized and used for the next iteration of guidance. The Service provides education and extension which means they are building capacity, providing outreach and becoming a known provider of usable and necessary information. The National Adaptation Service can support the development of solutions to emerging problems across sectors and reduce the costs of inaction.

How does a National Adaptation Service work?

A successful National Adaptation Service would require an institutional design involving multiple agencies and interests that includes strong research, operational activities, and ongoing evaluation to ensure response to user needs and new science at national and regional scales. This is necessary to provide a coordinated approach to identifying information needed by decision and policymakers across sectors and geographies, finding or producing that information, interpreting that information, providing it to potential users, and working with them. The National Adaptation Service would also support ongoing experimentation, monitoring and evaluation of its approaches to ensure their efficacy.

The National Adaptation Service would not replace or displace existing climate service providers, which includes programs targeting climate adaptation, such as the USGS Climate Adaptation Science Centers, as well as efforts within existing extension agencies to incorporate climate services into their work. The National Adaptation Service would coordinate with existing providers to support and enhance their work, while focusing its own efforts on sectors and stakeholders that are currently under-served with regard to adaptation services.

Key design considerations

Who is and is not well-served by existing climate support efforts? Who are the current and future stakeholders it will need to serve and for what range of sectors?

Which of the many possible components should a National Adaptation Service include? While it must provide more than climate change data, should it provide information related to the ecological and sociopolitical effects of climate change, the planning and policy implications of those changes and effects, guidance, and training? Should it provide service online and/or in-person? How should it  package information for its potential range of stakeholders?

How will National Adaptation Service research funding priorities be identified? By value-of-information analyses to ascertain the value of potential research results to actual decisions, by level of vulnerability or some other metric?

What types of outreach should be used? Will different stakeholders or user groups need targeted outreach? Will some challenges require particular campaigns or support services?

  • USDA Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service builds knowledge and capacity in support of agricultural, environmental, and human health and well-being by supporting research programs in the Land-Grant University System and other partner organizations.
  • USDA Climate Hubs package and deliver information capitalizing on expertise, programs, and partnerships within the Department of agriculture, such as Cooperative Extension and the Climate Change Response Frameworks, enabling farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners to engage in climate adaptation and promoting agriculture/forestry production sustainability and health.
  • NOAA Sea Grant extension service is a network of federal/university partnerships with centers in every coastal and Great Lakes state, Puerto Rico, and Guam. Focused on creating and maintaining a healthy coastal environment and economy, Sea Grant has engaged in extensive climate-related capacity-building.
  • NOAA Regional Integrated Sciences and Assessments (RISA) Programs leverage NOAA’s climate and weather efforts and partnerships to build the adaptation-related knowledge, expertise, and ability of decision makers in a variety of sectors.

USGS Climate Adaptation Science Centers are federal-university partnerships focused on providing scientific tools, information, and expertise to natural and cultural resource managers (federal, state, tribal, local, public/private) grappling with climate-related risks and vulnerabilities to natural and cultural resources. Each Climate Adaptation Science Center has hired a tribal liaison to improve communication with tribal nations. Washington State University created a Metropolitan Center for Applied Research & Extension to support urban farms.

Additional Resources

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Related Policies

Federal Adaptation Capacity Building


Resilience Funding


Senior-Level Resilience Position