'Climate Change' Added to Government's 'High Risk' List

By Susan Jones | February 14, 2013 | 11:39 AM EST

Superstorm Sandy produced extensie flooding on the New Jersey shoreline. (Photo: Master Sgt. Mark Olsen, Air Force via AP)

(CNSNews.com) - The federal government needs to a better job of managing climate change, which poses "significant financial risks," says the General Accountability Office.

The GAO has added "climate change" to its 2013 High Risk List, which is updated every two years at the start of a new Congress to identify agencies and programs in need of improvement or situations in which the federal government may be vulnerable.

For 2013, GAO has added two areas: Climate change and gaps in weather satellite data.

Climate Change Risks

GAO said climate change creates significant financial risks for the federal government, which owns extensive infrastructure, such as defense installations; insures property through the National Flood Insurance Program; and provides emergency aid in response to natural disasters.

"The federal government is not well positioned to address the fiscal exposure presented by climate change, and needs a government wide strategic approach with strong leadership to manage related risks," the report said.

President Obama, in his State of the Union address on Tuesday, said the U.S. must do more to combat climate change, "for the sake of our children and our future."

Obama urged Congress to produce a bipartisan solution to climate change, such as a cap-and-trade program; he called for more wind and solar energy production; and he proposed using oil and gas revenues to fund an Energy Security Trust that will drive new research and technology to shift cars and trucks off oil for good. I

Gaps in Weather Satellite Data

Potential gaps in satellite data beginning as early as 2014 and lasting as long as 53 months have led to concerns that future weather forecasts and warnings -- including warnings of extreme events such as hurricanes, storm surges, and floods -- will be less accurate and timely, GAO said.

In addition to the two areas mentioned above, GAO said additional progress is both possible and needed in the following 28 areas on its 2013 high-risk list:

It says solving these high-risk problems "offers the potential to save billions of dollars, improve service to the public, and strengthen the performance and accountability of the U.S. government."

2013 High Risk List:

Enforcement of Tax Laws

Medicare Program

Medicaid Program

National Flood Insurance Program

Improving and Modernizing Federal Disability Programs

Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation Insurance Programs

Revamping Federal Oversight of Food Safety

Protecting the Federal Government's Information Systems and the Nation's Cyber Critical Infrastructures

Restructuring the U.S. Postal Service to Achieve Sustainable Financial Viability

Funding the Nation's Surface Transportation System

Management of Federal Oil and Gas Resources

Modernizing the U.S. Financial Regulatory System and Federal Role in Housing Finance

Strengthening Department of Homeland Security Management Functions

Establishing Effective Mechanisms for Sharing and Managing Terrorism-Related Information to Protect the Homeland

Ensuring the Effective Protection of Technologies Critical to U.S. National Security Interests

Protecting Public Health through Enhanced Oversight of Medical Products

Managing Federal Real Property

DOD Approach to Business Transformation

DOD Business Systems Modernization

DOD Support Infrastructure Management

DOD Financial Management

DOD Supply Chain Management

DOD Weapon Systems Acquisition

Strategic Human Capital Management

Transforming EPA's Process for Assessing and Controlling Toxic Chemicals

DOD Contract Management

DOE's Contract Management for the National Nuclear Security Administration and Office of Environmental Management

NASA Acquisition Management