Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Here’s How the U.S. Can Adapt to Climate Change

This house in New Jersey, which was ruined by Hurricane Sandy's storm surge, was purchased by the state using federal funds and demolished under a flood-control program that's replacing houses with public open space. (Credit: Rosanna Arias/FEMA) Click to Enlarge.
Climate change is being felt locally, through floods, heatwaves and other meteorological maladies, but there’s little sense in leaving the mammoth task of climate adaptation to local communities to figure out for themselves.

That’s why the Obama Administration convened a panel of local, state and tribal leaders last year to advise the federal government on how to guide and improve climate adaptation efforts and resiliency planning.  On Monday that panel presented a 46-page report containing more than 100 of suggestions to White House officials, ranging from a need for a compendium of adaptation case studies and best practices to changes in how the insurance industry works.

“These should be nonpartisan issues, and they’re really issues that impact the quality of life in our cities,” task force member Jim Brainard, the mayor of Carmel, Ind., said during a press conference Monday.  “We cannot continue to build cities as we have in the past.”

The federal government says it’s already acting on some of the group’s findings.  “We have started to integrate the recommendations into the grant programs across the federal government, and really trying to figure out how to embed this work in the DNA of the agencies across the administration,” White House Council on Environmental Quality chief Mike Boots told reporters.

Many of the panel’s suggestions focused on the need for improved data and information; a theme upon which the government had acted even before it started sending out the morning’s media alerts.  The U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit, aka the Climate Explorer, is a new online tool that can be used to assess coastal flooding risks, water shortfalls and other challenges associated with global warming.  The first phase of the toolkit was launched by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Monday, representing an extension of the government’s geeky approach to harnessing the power of Big Data in working to adapt to climate change.

Not all of the group’s recommendations were focused narrowly on climate change.  Many simply offered advice for fostering greater resilience to disasters, regardless of whether climate change is behind those disasters.

“It’s about streamlining the relationships that the federal government has with local communities when it comes to things like disaster relief and extreme weather,” Robert Cowin, the Union of Concerned Scientists’ government affairs director for climate and energy issues, said.

Cowin said the Obama Administration could act on many of the report’s recommendations without the support of Congress, which is skeptical of the need for climate action.  But he said the task of readying the nation for a deteriorating climate would be made easier if Congress supported reforms, such as by reshaping agencies and allocating funds.

Read More at Here’s How the U.S. Can Adapt to Climate Change

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