In the summer of 2021, the Academy’s Board issued a public statement on climate change, a step rarely taken in the Academy’s 240-year history. The Board—then chaired by Nancy C. Andrews, Dean Emerita of Duke University School of Medicine—determined that the significant, incontrovertible threat of climate change warranted a declaration, which included the following statement:
“All of us – scientists, engineers, humanists, lawyers, social scientists, educators, artists, and individuals from the private sector and government – must work together to limit and respond to climate change. In these efforts, we need to collaborate with national and international companies, organizations, and institutions.”
The Board statement was both an endorsement of widespread efforts to act and the beginning of an Academy initiative. The Commission on Accelerating Climate Action, a nonpartisan, multidisciplinary, multiyear project, was formed to embody the breadth of the coalition that the nation needs to enact and sustain climate action. The Commission soon recognized that American climate policy lacks a broad durable commitment so accelerate the pace of action, so they set about forming a coalition to sustain progress and ensure the benefits of climate action —health, economic prosperity, and political voice—are enjoyed by all Americans.
The Commission is one of the most diverse groups to address climate issues, with expertise spanning the arts, faith communities, environmental justice, youth activism, the natural and social sciences, Indigenous people and Indigenous Knowledge, public health, and urban design.
Over the past two years, they undertook a wide-ranging project to identify important issues that span ideological and political divides in America. Over the course of 5 commission meetings and consultations with more than 80 experts, the Commission proposed pursuing recommendations that balances changes that are clearly affordable and widely supported, such as building new green infrastructure, with more complex changes, such as coordinating cooperation across the whole of government. The Commission believed that action would beget action and Investments in experimentation and learning would build efficiency and increase support across communities. The hope was that in time, emissions from the United States would decline more rapidly, and the politics of climate change would become easier to manage because more of society would see tangible benefits from action, and the nation’s resilience against climate impacts would grow.
The final report, Forging Climate Solutions: How to Accelerate Action Across America, offers a blueprint for the nation’s response, one that coordinates efforts across sectors, ideological divides, and many other forms of diversity. The report offers five strategies and 21 recommendations that articulate how a whole-of-society commitment can emerge. These include prioritizing equity, fairness, and justice in climate action, engaging and educating, mobilizing investments, deploying strategic mitigation, and ensuring adaptation everywhere.
Watch this video to learn more about the Commission and its work.
Justice, along with pragmatism and accountability, form the central focus of the report and permeate throughout the recommendations. These concerns for justice include all those who will be impacted by climate change, including historically marginalized groups, energy transition communities, and those effected by adaptation efforts. The report highlights case studies where centering climate justice has created jobs and built cohesion between communities and the private sector.