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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USAID's Climate-Resilient Development Framework

This is the core document from my USAID contract. Took us three years to write this! We’ve implemented the framework in over 30 countries on dozens of projects. The USAID Global Climate Change office will hold a webinar today at 4pm. Space is limited, but I’ll post the stream this Friday.

USAID’s Climate-Resilient Development Framework (2014) offers a simple yet robust five-stage approach to help decision-makers and development practitioners at all levels systematically assess climate-related risks and prioritize actions that promote climate-resilient development.

Developed by USAID’s Global Climate Change Office, this “development-first” approach helps decision-makers and practitioners integrate climate considerations directly into development activities across multiple sectors, keeping the focus on achieving development goals despite a changing climate. 

Working with USAID missions, governments, and other stakeholders, the framework has been used in Barbados, Jamaica, Nepal, Peru, the Philippines, St. Lucia, Tanzania, and West Africa.

Obama admin sued for dragging feet on studies of climate impacts

Clever, but I don’t think the CEQ has authority to enforce a NEPA regulation. Any 2Ls out there?

How is the U.S. Government Adapting to Climate Change?

A: By incorporating climate science into environmental regulations. The EPA recently published 17 adaptation plans for various environmental regulatory offices in the U.S. These plans affect the quality of our water and air, reduce chemical waste in the environment, and improve government employee knowledge on climate science. Note that in 2010, and 2013 President Obama signed executive orders requiring all of the Federal Government to implement adaptation plans based on climate science. Here’s the EPA’s list of plans. Each agency will have their own adaptation plans, and I’ll post those as I receive them.

Check out the plans if you can! They’re free and easy to read. 

EPA Adaptation Implementation Plans

In early November, 2013 EPA released 17 Program and Regional Adaptation Implementation Plans for a 60 day public comment period. The public is invited to review and provide comment on the draft Implementation Plans through the public docket at www.regulations.gov (Docket Number EPA-HQ-OA-2013-0568). The docket will open as soon as the Federal Register Notice is published. If you are providing comments through the public docket, it is important to identify which of the 17 Plans your comments refer to. Thank you for your interest and assistance.

These draft Implementation Plans were prepared by EPA’s Program and Regional Offices following the February 2013 publication of the Draft Climate Change Adaptation Plan (PDF). The 17 plans included here are part of an ongoing effort to address adaptation across the federal government, in response to Executive Order 13514 - “Federal Leadership in Environmental, Energy, and Economic Performance.” (PDF)

Program Implementation Plans

Regional Office Implementation Plans

Review of the Top U.S. Climate News Stories of 2013 | The Yale Forum on Climate Change & The Media

Despite risks climate change poses for humans and natural systems, it continues to evoke little to moderate concern from the American public generally, and concerned scientists and policy makers worry that public awareness lags sharply behind what they say is scientific understanding. While climate scientists overwhelmingly agree that Earth’s climate is warming primarily as a result of fossil fuel combustion, many Americans and policy makers appear unconvinced and unconcerned.

Some of the following choices for noteworthy climate stories — admittedly a selective and partial sampling — may seem unfamiliar, and some of those named here may not make big news for years to come. But no matter what, new and old media in 2013 produced a range of climate change news coverage with some important numbers.

Business: 700, The Number of Major Companies that Signed the Climate Declaration

More than 700 companies (including corporate giants such as General Motors, Intel, Owens Corning, and Nike) signed onto Ceres’ Climate Declaration, which calls for strong U.S. action on climate change.

Interesting round up from Yale Forum on Climate Change. A bit alarmist in tone, but the stories as reported in the original venues are worth clicking through.

I was wondering, what regions and what environmental issues are you the most concerned about?

A question by liberalwithguts

Hey liberalwithguts!

Thanks a lot for following me all this time. Well, at a cerebral level, I worry that China is getting a free pass. The argument in favor of China’s growth while getting away with horrible environmental harms is basically that the country first has to grow and stabilize. This is hard to argue against. Once incomes and education and health indicators are at a certain level, so says the Chinese government, only then will they remediate their environmental destructions. (Go here for a list of China’s Environmental Issues). Only consumer-based economies have proven track records following this rapid growth/aggressive resource extraction and then stabilization/clean up model.

Most western countries followed this approach, too - rapid economic growth paired with extreme resource extraction, then efficiencies through technology, and then clean up. I’d argue that major countries, the UN, and the World Bank encourage this model.

Severe though China’s problems with water, soil and air are, they are not different in kind from those of other nations in the past. As Pan Jiahua of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) puts it, “We’re following the US, Japan and UK and because of inertia we don’t have the capacity to stop quickly.” Via

But I think China is different than the West. It’s compressing what Europe and the U.S. did in 400 years down to 25. China’s ravaging ecosystems at such great speeds and big scales that there’s no built-in recovery time.

During that 400 year growth period, New England, for example, was deforested four times. How four times? Because the forests had time to bounce back and recover. I’m not saying America is righteous. I’m saying that China seems to be ignoring the capabilities of ecosystems to recover at such rapid paces and large scales - it cannot deforest four times in 25 years.

In August, the Economist explored how China’s rapid growth comes at the expense of tremendous environmental pollution. Check it out if you can.

In real life I worry about sea level rise along coasts in western countries. Yes, poor countries will be hit hard. Distasteful as it sounds, coastal communities in poor countries can be moved (sometimes by force) much more easily than, say, Manhattan or Miami. And the world needs the economies of western countries in order to recover. If the west suffers, so will the rest of the world with respect to environmental recovery and disaster response efforts.

You can read about displaced people, called Climate Refugees, here.

Cheers!

Michael

India's law to feed poor threatens to gobble up climate funding

The best case against funding climate change policy?

India’s National Action Plan for Climate Change, a hugely ambitious programme requiring billions of dollars, is being starved of funds, officials say, as a new law aimed at giving food to the needy threatens to eat up a large chunk of government spending.

In 2009, the government set up eight national missions to tackle climate change: the Solar Mission, Energy Mission, Sustainable Habitat Mission, Water Mission, Himalayan Mission, Sustainable Agriculture Mission, Green India Mission and Strategic Knowledge Mission.

The funding allocated for these missions during the 12th Five Year Plan, which ends in 2017, was just over $40 billion. The largest amount was earmarked for the agriculture mission at $17.6 billion, followed by $8.36 billion for the Green India Mission, which aims to expand forests.

But officials and experts warn that these spending plans are now at risk due to the arrival of the National Food Security Act, which was passed last month.

The controversial new law commits the government to providing heavily subsidised food to around 819 million poor people in urban and rural areas. The legislation mandates the state public distribution system to provide 5 kg of rice per person per month at not more than 3 rupees (Rs) per kg, wheat at not more than Rs 2 per kg, and coarse grain at not more than Rs 1 per kg.

According to the act, the cheap food will be extended to 75 percent of rural dwellers and 50 percent of those living in urban areas, which amounts to roughly two thirds of the South Asian nation’s population of over 1.2 billion people.

SUMMER SCHOOL IN SUSTAINABLE CLIMATE RISK MANAGEMENT
PSA: 

26-30 August 2013
Penn State University

The Network for Sustainable Climate Risk Management (SCRiM) links an international, transdisciplinary team of climate scientists, economists, philosphers, statisticians, engineers, and policy analysists to answer the question, “What are sustainable, scientifically sound, technologically feasible, economically efficient, and ethically defensible climate risk management strategies?”

As a central part of its educational and research mission, SCRiM will host a week-long summer school to foster opportunities for collaboration and to provide graduate students and postdoctoral fellows with a solid foundation in the broad, multidisciplinary knowledge, tools, and methods of the diverse fields participating in the network.  

Taught by senior researchers in the SCRiM network, the summer school will offer sessions on Earth system sciencepolicy analysisuncertainty quantificationcoupled epistemic-ethical analysis, and integrated assessment. Participants will also gain hands-on experience with key methods and tools such robust decisionmaking, the use of simple models, and analysis of relevant datasets.  The summer school will include a Toolbox Workshop session to foster enhanced cross-disciplinary communication and more effective collaborative research among participants.

While the summer school is designed primarily for graduate students and postdocs collaborating within the SCRiM network, participants from other institutions will also find it an enriching experience.  Furthermore, the SCRiM network is open to new members and summer school participation may provide opportunities to explore the potential for new collaborations.

To apply, please send an single PDF file containing an application letter (briefly describing your research interests and explaining why you would like to attend the summer school) and a current CV toscrim@psu.edu.  Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis and should be submitted no later thanWednesday 24 July 2013 to receive full consideration.  Funding is available to support travel and accommodations for participants.


INSTRUCTORS & SESSIONS:
Karen Fisher-Vanden — Integrated Assessment
Chris Forest — Uncertainty Quantification
Klaus Keller — Earth System Science
Robert Lempert — Policy Analysis / Robust Decisionmaking
Michael O’Rourke — Toolbox Workshop
Nancy Tuana — Coupled Epistemic-Ethical Analysis
To learn more about SCRiM, please visit http://scrimhub.org.
Obama's Arctic strategy sets off a climate time bomb

No comment.

Short, interesting paper on how locals in Belize, Nepal, and Tanzania deal with uncertanties in climate adaptation decision making
This short paper on climate adaptation shows how decision makers struggle with dealing with change. One problem with new environmental risks is how to decide which system to address first - food? ecosystems? infrastructure?

$100,000 Antarctica Science Prize for students, researchers, or anyone sciencey and awesome

This is one of the largest climate research grants unrestricted award (for an individual) I’ve ever seen. If you’re into climate and Antarctica, this is for you!

—-Last date for nominations 23 May 2013——

The 2013 Martha T. Muse Prize for Science and Policy in Antarctica

The “Martha T. Muse Prize for Science and Policy in Antarctica” is a US$ 100,000 unrestricted award presented to an individual in the fields of Antarctic science or policy who has demonstrated potential for sustained and significant contributions that will enhance the understanding and/or preservation of Antarctica.  The Prize is inspired by Martha T. Muse’s passion for Antarctica and is intended to be a legacy of the International Polar Year 2007-2008.

The prize-winner can be from any country and work in any field of Antarctic science or policy - for example, Antarctic Climate change, Biosciences & Conservation, Oceanography, Geology, Physical sciences, Antarctic policy, etc.  The goal is to provide recognition of the important work being done by the individual and to call attention to the significance of understanding Antarctica in a time of change.

There are a number of criteria on which nominees are assessed, covering their background and accomplishments, their leadership and potential for further development, their communication and outreach skills and achievements, and their contribution to international collaboration.  See the Category Descriptions document (http://www.museprize.org/userfiles/MM_Prize_Category_descript.pdf) for information on each of the categories used in the evaluation process.

The Prize is awarded by the Tinker Foundation and administered by the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR).

Nominations open until 23 May 2013

Contact:
Dr Renuka Badhe
E-mail: rb302@cam.ac.uk

How much water does it take to frack a gas well? About 4 Million gallons per well, equivalent amount of water 11,000 families use each day.

North Dakota oil fracking wells expected to jump from 8,000 to 50,000 wells.

skeptv:

What Is Fracking?

The fracking frenzy in North Dakota has boosted the U.S. fuel supply — but at what cost? Watch this video animation to see how the process of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is used to extract oil and natural gas from shale formations deep underground.

by National Geographic.

(via scinerds)

Hey! I'm a high school senior writing a paper for government and chose to write about the Environment. I'm pretty passionate about it, wanting to become an environmental engineer. I have already cited you a few times, but was wondering if you had any helpful thoughts on the U.S. vs the U.N. as far as future protection laws concern... Or anything you think is worth adding to my paper! Thank you so much! I really look up to you and love your blog! Have a nice day! :)

A question by theresamarg

Hi Theresa,

Thanks for your nice note! :D

Sounds like a very good paper. And quite challenging. I don’t know your background, so it’s hard for me to know what advice to give you.

The major difference between U.S. and UN environmental protection is that the UN does not make formal “laws.” This is an important thing to grasp as you shape your paper.

Google:

  • US vs UN environmental law
  • How does the UN enforce treaties

I presume (again, I don’t know) that you’ll write a bit comparing the two, side-by-side. The U.S. is one country, with citizens and land. The UN is not a country, has no residents, no borders, and contains no lands. The U.S. federal and state governments are allowed to make law. The UN is not allowed to make any laws.

There are some minor exceptions.

First, core to the UN’s mission is to encourage its 193 members to create and enforce their own laws based primarily on human rights. These laws are enforced at the country level, and in no way can the UN intervene on enforcement of these laws (with the exception of war and conflict, where members vote on intervention or humanitarian aid).

The second exception is the International Court of Justice(ICJ), which is a very weak system that basically adjudicates the criminal acts of the highest leaders of individual countries. You can read about the process, here. Note that it encourages disputing parties to take it to their home lands.

The ICJ usually deals with human rights, genocide, and war crimes. It seldom enforces international treaty violations, and rarely enforces environmental treaties (mostly because violators are easily identified and their home countries and the polluted territories have jurisdiction).

So, basically, the ICJ tries hard to push any dispute back to the country level.

When that fails, then several special panels hold a series of votes to help decide jurisdiction, applicable procedural rules, and possible alternatives (usually there are alternatives).

The third exception is when the UN has to sue itself! That is a big hot mess, and I’d avoid writing about it like the plague. (If you must, go here.)

I’m being very generic, and I’m sure I’ll get a blistering message from some of my keen-eyed readers, but you get the point I hope!

This is all to say that the UN has no formally recognized environmental law jurisdiction (in fact, the UN attempted to create an environmental court, called the Environmental Chamber. But no country brought a single case during the Chamber’s 13 years of existence. It was dissolved in 2006. For the history of the Environmental Chamber, see: here).

Again, I’m being very general here. You’re more than welcome to contact me via email if you have more specific questions.

Cheers!

Michael

Gas Association busted for falsifying signatures on a petition. Surprised?

Gas drillers were caught lying to public officials. About 66% of the signatures were falsified. Company blames a PR firm, which, it seems, specializes in fudging petitions.

The drillers used the petition to lobby a local government in Colorado to pass fracking laws. Shit is fracked up and bullshit.

Pro-fracking petition with fake signatures embarrasses gas association

A full two-thirds of those denied signing or endorsing a petition opposing a ban on fracking in Fort Collins. Not only was the petition a big fat lie, it was a laughably amateur effort to deceive the city’s lawmakers. From the Coloradoan:

Cali Rastrelli’s name is signed at the bottom of a petition submitted to the council. At the top, the petition says in bold letters, “Vote NO on the Fort Collins fracking ban.”

“Big Bill Pizza” is written in the blank where the signer could enter their business or organization.

“I haven’t signed any petition in the last month,” said Rastrelli, a Colorado State University student who lives in student housing. “I didn’t put my name on this.”

By the end of last week, the association was acknowledging that “mistakes were made.” A subsequent internal audit “identified numerous areas for improvement.” Now association officials are trying to retract the petition. And they are failing.
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