Using Scenario Analysis for Climate Risk Management Planning


The General Services Administration (GSA) is increasingly focused on ensuring that federal agencies are proactive in preparing to address risks caused by climate change. The Agency tasked its Climate Change Adaptation Team (Team) with advancing organizational readiness for climate change across the federal government. In response, the team hosted a series of climate preparedness workshops for federal stakeholders to review impacts of potential climate scenarios on existing mission-related infrastructure. These day-long sessions exceeded the expectations of the GSA and its federal partners and it earned the 2013 GreenGov Presidential Award, which celebrates extraordinary achievement in the pursuit of President Obama’s challenge to reduce energy use and carbon pollution, curb waste, and save taxpayer dollars.


In order to build capacity, capability, and confidence within the federal government to address incremental climate risks, the GSA’s Team (including Katie Miller, previously of GSA and currently of Adaptive Futures) planned, managed and executed full-day Climate Change Scenario Sessions in two at-risk locations: Kansas City, MO, and Washington, DC. The Team sought to identify a customer in each location that required better understanding of climate risks on its assets; accordingly, the Team identified:

  • A regional facility of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), located in Kansas City, MO. Given the extreme heat and persistent drought conditions that were projected for the region through the end of the century, the USDA customer was concerned about the future reliability of a mission critical data center and its information technology (IT) support; and

  • The IRS Headquarters in Washington, DC. In order to create an in-depth climate change scenario session, the Team decided to leverage lessons learned from a major flooding event in 2006 at this facility to assess how projected extreme heat and rising sea levels would impact the headquarters building and the telecommunications services that support it.

Utilizing expertise of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the projections of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the United States Global Change Research Program (USGCRP), the Team developed a detailed storyline describing what each region might experience 50 years from now.

During the sessions, participants were tasked with considering the projected incremental climate impacts, and accordingly, identifying the necessary responses for managing the climate risks to each agency’s assets. The participants developed detailed strategies for operations and maintenance, contract modifications, capital investment planning, and policies that could address the risks.


The Climate Change Scenario Sessions exceeded the expectations of the GSA and its federal stakeholder participants. Not only did the session advance organizational readiness for climate risks by preparing the workforce to understand and address climate risks, but it also built the foundation to increase customer satisfaction by ensuring the GSA can support its customers in meeting their missions in a changing climate. In order to gauge success following the session, the Team sent a detailed survey to participants. When asked whether they feel better prepared to consider climate risks in the work they do, participants resoundingly answered “very much”.

The information and knowledge gained from these sessions continued beyond the day the stakeholders spent together. Team members worked together afterwards to use the information gathered at the sessions to work with GSA’s Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions telecommunications and network services contracting team and developed applicable climate risk management procurement requirements. This government-wide $50 billion service contract will support federal agencies for 15 years in implementing their telecommunications and network services needs, and thanks to the climate change scenario sessions, the contract awardees will be required to account for climate change risks in the delivery of the services.

The sessions were so effective that the events and the Team were recognized for their innovation and replicability by the White House Council on Environmental Quality as a GreenGov Spotlight Community. The Teams were also recognized by President Obama as Climate Champions at the 2013 Presidential GreenGov Awards. For more information on this award-winning initiative, see the article Katie wrote for the GSA.

  1. GSA Climate Adaptation Project Earns GreenGov Presidential Award, GSA Blog, Katie Miller, November 6, 2013