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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Reflecting on Sandy

One prominent feature of the summer here in the U.S. has been the attempts by multiple public institutions to reflect upon the disaster which was Hurricane Sandy and extract lessons to guide future policy and development. In June, the New York Building Congress Task Force on New York City Storm Preparedness release the report Risk & Resiliency After SandyThat report identified a number of mechanisms for reducing the city's vulnerability to extreme weather events including hardening utility grids, emergency planning and response, making buildings more resilient, and making infrastructure more redundant.

Yesterday, the Hurricane Sandy Task Force commission by the Obama Administration released its report, Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Strategy. That report focuses on criteria for the investment of federal funds in rebuilding efforts and emphasizes the following points: 
  • Promoting resilient building, based on current and future risks
  • Ensuring a regionally coordinated, resilient approach to infrastructure investment
  • Providing families safe, affordable housing options and protecting homeowners
  • Supporting small businesses and revitalizing local economies
  • Addressing insurance challenges, understanding, and accessibility
  • Building local government's capacity to plan for long-term rebuilding and prepare for future disasters
While the report describes these as "innovative strategies", these all appear to be fairly standard mechanisms for disaster risk reduction that one could argue should have been embedded in public policy and local planning long ago. 

Finally, the U.S. Department of Energy also released a report this month focused on the importance of increasing the resilience of the electricity grid. Economic Benefits of Increasing Electric Grid Resilience to Weather Outages notes that between 2003 and 2012, weather-related grid outages "are estimated to have cost the U.S. economy an inflation-adjusted annual average of $18 billion to $33 billion." Hence, increased investment in grid resilience is an important component of U.S. disaster mitigation efforts. 

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Climate Extremes, Regional Impacts, and the Case for Resilience

A recent report from the World Bank, Turn Down the Heat: Climate Extremes, Regional Impacts, and the Case for Resilience, explores the impacts of a 2 or 4 degree C warming in three regions with key sectoral vulnerabilities: agriculture in Sub-Saharan Africa, sea-level rise in coastal Southeast Asia, and water resources in South Asia.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Federal Support for Local Adaptation

The U.S. Government Accountability Office has weighed on the role of the federal government in supporting adaptation. Future Federal Adaptation Efforts Could Better Support Local Infrastructure Decision Makers infrastructure such as roads and bridges, wastewater systems, and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) centers are vulnerable to changes in the climate. Furthermore, while the GAO acknowledges federal efforts under way to facilitate more informed adaptation decisions, it notes that these efforts could better support the needs of local infrastructure decision makers in the future. Specifically, the GAO argues that current planning efforts are focused on near-term rather than long-term outcomes, challenges persist for local decision-makers in accessing climate information, and available information is difficult to integrate within existing planning frameworks. The report draws on the experience of a select set of stakeholders to identify factors that ease the adaptation process.

Climate & Socioeconomic Conditions in the U.S. Great Lakes

Interactive map to support climate change adaptation planning in Great Lakes regionA jointly developed interactive map launched this month by the University of Michigan's Graham Sustainability Institute and Headwaters Economics gives Great Lakes policymakers and decision-makers easy access to targeted data to help them plan for, and adapt to, the regional impacts of climate change.The free online tool—the "Socioeconomics and Climate Change in the Great Lakes Region" map— provides social, economic and demographic statistics on 225 counties in the region, overlaid with detailed data about municipal spending, land-use change and climate change characteristics.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Managing the Land in a Changing Climate

The latest progress report from the UK's Adaptation Sub-Committee focuses on ecosystem services. Managing the Land in a Changing Climate  contains a number of recommendations including the need to better enforce existing regulations for the maintenance of natural ecosystems as well, the need to identify clear pathways by which stated management objectives will be achieved, and the need to better account for the value of ecosystem services in decision-making.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Climate & Extreme Weather Events in Australia

The Environment and Communications References Committee within Australia's Senate has just released a report representing an inquiry conducted over the past year into the Recent Trends in and Preparedness for Extreme Weather Events. The report links observed trends in Australian extreme weather events to anthropogenic climate change and discusses the the preparedness of national, state and local governments to respond to these events. Ultimately, it arrives at 10 key recommendations that largely advocate for continuation of Australia's research agencies efforts in providing and improving climate projections, stewardship and analysis of climate data, as well the pursuit of a range of risk management options from planning to insurance to vulnerability .reduction.