Climate Adaptation

CLIMATE ADAPTATION

I want to punch climate change in the face. A blog about the interactions between the built environment, people, and nature.


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Do you think this new EO will have an effect on green energy funding? Could we see another wind energy boom like the one back at the beginning of Obama's first term?

A question by impulsivefarmer

Hey impulsivefarmer!

Thanks for following me all this time. Honestly, I don’t know. The new EO is mostly focused on infrastructure and disaster preparedness. Things like how the Federal Government can help communities better prepare for inevitable climate impacts that will occur, such as wild fires, health impacts, coastal erosion, economic resilience. Things like that. 

So, this particular Executive Order is focused on adaptation and resilience for cities, and doesn’t really focus on prevention. In fact, there’s a package of resilience actions that the President has taken published right on the White House website: “Climate Change Resilience | The White House”.

I don’t focus on prevention, so I’ll have to direct you to Obama’s Climate Action Plan, which has several energy initiatives that might interest you.

Cheers!

Michael

FACT SHEET: President Obama's New Executive Order on Climate Preparedness

An Executive Order to Protect Our Communities

The Obama Administration has taken significant steps to strengthen the climate resilience of America’s communities and economy.  More than 30 Federal agencies developed their first-ever Climate Change Adaptation Plans, outlining strategies to protect their operations, programs, and investments to better serve communities and safeguard our public resources in the face of climate change.  In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, the Administration has provided resources to rebuild the affected area to be more resilient than before, including support for more climate-resilient roads and infrastructure, and projects that protect drinking water and buffer communities from flooding.  In addition, Federal agencies have partnered with states, cities, tribes, and the private sector to develop strategies to address the impacts of climate change on our freshwater resources, oceans and coasts, and wildlife. Agencies have also built new, data-driven tools to help decision makers and resource managers map and plan for future sea level rise. From Florida to Minnesota, and from Alaska to New York, Federal agencies have partnered with communities to provide funding and technical assistance to address local climate impacts such as sea level rise, flooding, and water scarcity.

To build on this progress, the Executive Order (E.O.) “Preparing the United States for the Impacts of Climate Change,” signed today directs Federal agencies to:

  • Modernize Federal programs to support climate-resilient investments: Agencies will examine their policies and programs and find ways to make it easier for cities and towns to build smarter and stronger. Agencies will identify and remove any barriers to resilience-focused actions and investments– for example, policies that encourage communities to rebuild to past standards after disasters instead of to stronger standards – including through agency grants, technical assistance, and other programs in sectors from transportation and water management to conservation and disaster relief.
  • Manage lands and waters for climate preparedness and resilience: America’s natural resources are critical to our Nation’s economy, health and quality of life.  The E.O. directs agencies to identify changes that must be made to land- and water-related policies, programs, and regulations to strengthen the climate resilience of our watersheds, natural resources, and ecosystems, and the communities and economies that depend on them. Federal agencies will also evaluate how to better promote natural storm barriers such as dunes and wetlands, as well as how to protect the carbon sequestration benefits of forests and lands to help reduce the carbon pollution that causes climate change. 
  • Provide information, data and tools for climate change preparedness and resilience: Scientific data and insights are essential to help communities and businesses better understand and manage the risks associated with extreme weather and other impacts of climate change.  The E.O. instructs Federal agencies to work together and with information users to develop new climate preparedness tools and information that state, local, and private-sector leaders need to make smart decisions.  In keeping with the President’s Open Data initiative, agencies will also make extensive Federal climate data accessible to the public through an easy-to-use online portal.
  • Plan for climate change related risk: Recognizing the threat that climate change poses to Federal facilities, operations and programs, the E.O. builds on the first-ever set of Federal agency adaptation plans released earlier this year and directs Federal agencies to develop and implement strategies to evaluate and address their most significant climate change related risks.  

To implement these actions, the E.O. establishes an interagency Council on Climate Preparedness and Resilience, chaired by the White House and composed of more than 25 agencies. To assist in achieving the goals of the E.O., these agencies are directed to consider the recommendations of the State, Local, and Tribal Leaders Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience.”

Read the FACT SHEET, here

President Obama issues new Executive Order on Climate Change: "Preparing the United States for the Impacts of Climate Change"

President Obama issues new Executive Order, “Preparing the United States for the Impacts of Climate Change." The new EO, issued November 1st, directs the agencies to

1) Federal infrastructure spending will have to take climate into account. Agencies are supposed to examine their policies and find ways to help states prepare for the effects of climate change.

So, for example, federal disaster-relief programs that help coastal communities rebuild after a storm or flood will have to take into account the possibility that the next storm or flood could be even worse. Likewise, roads and bridges built with federal money will have to be planned with changing climate conditions — such as future sea-level rise — in mind.

2) Water- and land- management will get revamped. Agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Interior will have to review their land- and water-management policies to take shifting conditions into account.

For example, agencies will have to ”evaluate how to better promote natural storm barriers such as dunes and wetlands” and figure out “how to protect the carbon sequestration benefits of forests and lands to help reduce the carbon pollution that causes climate change.” (The EPA has already released its plans to this effect.)

3) The federal government will try to provide better data on what climate impacts are actually coming. As part of the executive order, federal agencies are supposed to offer better information “that state, local, and private-sector leaders need to make smart decisions.” - WaPo

It’s an integrative approach, folding climate science and data into decision making at the federal level. Each agency was directed to create an adaptation policy back in 2011. Now the agencies have to implement their plans and use the National Climate Assessment and other findings from peer-reviewed climate scientists. This new EO builds upon several(!) orders by the President, including Executive Order 13514, which I wrote about here.

Understanding Adaptation Planning in the Philippines, Vietnam and Nepal

Download report here

This huge algal bloom in Lake Erie (that’s Detroit up there) broke out during government shutdown was not being tracked. The federal shutdown closed NOAA monitoring of unexpected health hazard. Read more at Sandusky Register

State officials: Seas will rise

500,000 people affected in Maryland alone.

Government shutdown delays seawall repairs

Video. Via NBC.

Hi! Denser city living now seems to be the best solution for the billions of people added to the earth. But many prefer to live in big houses in the suburbs (than in tiny apartments), and would rather drive long distances to their workplace (than experience overcrowding on public transports). What do you propose would be the best way in encouraging both denser city living whilst having good neighbourhood satisfaction? Thanks

A question by lin-deng

Hi hello-linny!

This is incredibly complicated and I’m not really going to answer your question directly. There are a variety of design and urban planning techniques to help cities be more dense while being more livable. Form Based Code, Smart Growth, sustainable planning, etc., are very common, easily replicable, and very flexible solutions to this.

The problem with these solutions are that people are not staying in one place for very long. This trend of people moving to cities will slow a bit, and cities can adapt and absorb the influxes.

The real question, to my mind, is how to make them stay? These new people rarely participate in local government. They rarely stay or invest in a place, typically using the city as a catalyst to elevate their socioeconomic standing.

This is fine, but cities will suffer in the next demographic swing. As it stands, most cities are planning for the next 10-20 years using a stable or growing tax base. This is just not true. Tax receipts will not continue to grow, they’ll be more volatile, creating deeper dips and higher spikes in local economies.

Tax receipts, which are used for things like water, health, education, environment, security, business development, and transportation, will (probably) implode.

Detroit (or the entire country of Japan) is a good example of this. Both based their planning goals on false demographics.

So, while most cities are scrambling to provide design solutions, they really should be pivoting towards investing in the people. How? Diversity in education systems. Having a strong public school system is great, creating a system that includes charter, specialty, religious schooling options is even better. Assisting people with their health care options should include increased focus on mental health. Study after study has shown that when people improve their mental health, their physical health and relationships with communities greatly improves. Investment in parks, environmental quality, and conservation areas consistently (in nearly every country) show economic and health resiliency.

Here’s a sweet little report discussing some of these solutions: Demographic change in European cities: City practices for active inclusion.

There are tons of other things, like creating a Happiness Index, which measures how happy people are in the current situations. If there are dips and swings to this index, government can nudge the bar in one direction or the other.

Thanks for the interesting question!

Michael

“ ‘Cities do not cause heatwaves,’ Stone writes, ‘they amplify them.’ At the peak of a heatwave in July 1999, Chicago was more than 6ºF warmer than rural Illinois. The urban heat island effect was first documented in 1818, when Luke Howard, an amateur meteorologist, took a series of temperature measurements in and around London which showed that the city was on average 4°F warmer than the surrounding countryside. It’s partly down to human activity (from driving to cooking to air-conditioning to breathing), partly because cities tend to be built from materials that are really bad at reflecting sunlight (tarmac’s especially terrible), and partly because of the lack of trees. ”

Hi Michael, Im a 22 yo student living in Istanbul Turkey. Im sure you know about whats happening over here for more than 3 months about Gezi Parkı. Any thoughts on that?

A question by colorlesscolor

Hi colorlesscolor

Thanks for your note. I hadn’t heard about Gezi Park, actually. It seems there is a proposal to turn the park into a mall. And it seems there is a protest that is unfocused, leaderless, and has no clear demands. What is the goal? Who, exactly (by name), are the protestors protesting?

image

Other questions: Is turning parks into malls or other developments a regular occurrence in Turkey? Who “owns” the park, technically - the city, the country, a private person, a corporation?? Why wasn’t the public involved in the park management in the first place? For example, were any of the protestors on the review board that approved the mall plan? If not, why not?

Etc…

image

I don’t know enough information to make a determination. But, if the city or the government body managing the park has the authority to turn parks into malls, then that is their prerogative. If the authority is corrupt, that is your prerogative to change it - not by protest, but by law. The pen (law) is always mightier than the sword (protest).

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