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Saturday, August 9, 2014

The Vulnerability Sourcebook

Over the past week, the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (GIZ), published a new guidance document for climate change vulnerability assessment. Building on the approach developed by Germany’s ‘Vulnerability Network’ for assessing domestic vulnerability across different sectors at the various administrative levels in Germany, the Vulnerability Sourcebook offers a methodological approach to vulnerability assessments and their application for monitoring and evaluation of adaptation. It is illustrated with examples and lessons learned from pilot applications in Bolivia, Pakistan, Burundi and Mozambique. Thus, it offers a compendium of practical and scientific knowledge on vulnerability assessments.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

U.S. Homeland Security Quadrennial Review

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has released its 2014 Quadrennial Homeland Security Review, which highlights highlights ongoing areas of priority and renewed areas of emphasis to guide strategic planning for the agency. To this end, the report does acknowledge climate change as a "threat multiplier" and notes that "Natural hazards are becoming more costly to address, with increasingly variable consequences due in part to drivers such as climate change and interdependent and aging infrastructure."

Risky Business in the United States

The Risky Business Project, which was launched in the United States in October of 2013, has released its report Risky Business: The Economic Risks of Climate Change to the United States.Chaired by economic luminaries Michael R. Bloomberg, Henry Paulson, and Tom Steyer, Risky Business examines the economic costs of climate change for coastal damages, agricultural production, and labor productivity.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Reducing the Administrative Burden of Federally Funded Research

A recent report from the U.S. National Science Foundation's National Science Board finds that U.S. researchers are spending a significant fraction of their working hours administering federal research grants rather than conducting research.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

EUROCLIMA Reports

The European Union's (EU) EUROCLIMA climate change cooperation programme with Latin America has published four publications that aim to provide guidance to Latin American governments as they design mitigation and adaptation strategies and policies. 

New State-based Adaptation Initiatives

The states of Hawaii and Rhode Island have passed new legislation to coordinate efforts on climate change adaptation. Both acts establish climate councils in the states. The Hawaii legislation also creates a mechanism for ongoing assessment of risks and adaptation options on a five-year cycle and mandates adaptation planning efforts that span both near-term and long-term priorities.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

UNFCCC Capacity Building Portal

The UNFCCC recently launched a new "Capacity-building Portal" - a tool devised  to help  monitor and review the capacity to better mitigate and adapt to climate change.Those interested in capacity-building activities can use the search results in various ways, such as:
  • Having a quick overview of the type of capacity-building support provided at the global, regional and country level
  • Tracking  specific project activities and programmes
  • Identifying and building on best practices
  • Identifying potential gaps in the delivery of capacity-building
  • Accessing information on stakeholders involved, funding sources and amounts allocated
  • Improving coordination of capacity-building support, including by identifying duplications of efforts
  • Identifying possible cooperation partners

Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Bloodletting Down Under Continues

Federal and state budgets for the next fiscal year are going to take their toll on Australian research including, but by no means limited to, climate change. As reported in the Sydney Morning Herald, next year's budget will bring sizeable cuts to the CSIRO, the Australian Research Council, the Defense Science and Technology Organization, the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organization, the Australian Institute of Marine Sciences, and the Cooperative Research Center Program. Meanwhile, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) will cease to exist, although many of its current funding programs will continue.

For CSIRO, the budget cuts are anticipated to lead to the elimination of 420 staff positions over the next year, and an additional 80 in subsequent years. These cuts are in addition to the 300 positions already eliminated this fiscal year. The Australian Climate Change Science Program, which has been a key science policy initiative for year, will consolidated within a new National Environmental Science Program, with a funding cut of $21.7 million in the process. However, the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility will officially continue to live on.

Meanwhile, the budget for Victoria, which was released last week, confimed that the Victorian Center for Climate Change Adaptation Research (where I had the pleasure of serving as a visiting fellow earlier this year) will not continue. That outcome is rather disappointing given the momentum around adaptation that VCCCAR has helped to create and the relationships it has helped to broker.

 


Monday, March 24, 2014

New U.S. Storm Surge Data

Our recently published article in Climate Risk Management presents the results of an effort to develop storm surge inundation layers for the eastern United States (Texas to Maine) for vulnerability and impacts assessment. The dataset, which is based on archived simulations with NOAA's SLOSH model, includes multiple inundation overlays reflecting both hurricanes of different intensities as well as various scenarios of sea-level rise. In addition to presenting this dataset, the article also presents two case study applications for coastal exposure assessment - one for U.S. energy infrastructure in the Southeast and one for future coastal housing.


Thursday, March 13, 2014

Climate Impacts and U.S. Energy Infrastructure


A new report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office reports that U.S. energy infrastructure is increasingly vulnerable to a range of climate change impacts—particularly infrastructure in areas prone to severe weather and water shortages. Climate changes are projected to affect infrastructure throughout all major stages of the energy supply chain, thereby increasing the risk of disruptions. This report complements a range of studies emerging from the federal government (particularly the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Global Change Research Program) in the past couple of years that effectively say the same thing.



Thursday, February 13, 2014

USAID Background Reports on Adaptation Options

USAID has released a series of background reports from the Africa and Latin American Resilience to Climate Change Project that cover a range of topics on the analysis of adaptation options: 



Climate Change Impact and Adaptation Study for the Lower Mekong Basin

The USAID Mekong Adaptation and Resilience to Climate Change (Mekong ARCC) project has finalized the Climate Change Impact and Adaptation Study for the Lower Mekong Basin (LMB). The study details  anticipated changes to the climate regime of the LMB and how these will impact key livelihood sectors, including agriculture, capture fisheries and aquaculture, livestock, and natural systems. 

Sunday, February 9, 2014

The Winter Olympics in a Warmer World

A new study from researchers at the University of Waterloo and MCI Management Center suggests that climate change could have an important influence on the selection of future host cities for the winter Olympics. By adding projected climate change to historical baselines for locations that have previously hosted the Olympics, the study evaluates whether those locations would have sufficiently reliable weather to host a future games. The report online is quite light on details of the analysis and its assumptions. Personally, there is a wealth of opportunities for managing the risk, simply by selecting appropriate locations and altering the timing of the games. Nevertheless, it's a very compelling way of thinking about the impacts of climate change.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

USDA Climate Hubs

In a remarkable display of government inefficiency, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has decided to launch a network of regional "climate hubs" to deliver information on climate variability and change to land managers. So we appear to be moving toward a future where every U.S. agency has its own network for sectoral climate services. The U.S. Department of the Interior launched its network of Climate Science Centers in 2010, and of course, NOAA's Regional Integrated Sciences and Assessments Program has been doing this for years. Given the regions are largely consistent from one network to another, it's inconceivable that greater efficiencies couldn't be realized through more coordinated efforts. That said, at least there is some evidence that different centers share common hosts. North Carolina State University, for example, which already hosts a DOI center will also host one of the USDA hubs through a U.S. Forest Service research center on its Centennial Campus.

Impacts and Adaptation for Lake Superior

A new study sponsored by the U.S. EPA explores climate change impacts and adaptation for Lake Superior. In addition to the usual presentation of climate projections for the region and impacts to its natural ecosystems, the report also summarizes existing actions relevant to climate adaptation, although most are nascent and/or developed without specific consideration for future climate change.

Sum of All Fears

A new report from the CSIRO suggests Australians rank climate change fairly low on the list of environmental concerns, despite widespread agreement that anthropogenic climate change is real and problematic. However, when one looks at the problems that rank above climate change: water shortages, pollution, water quality, drought, deforestation, and household waste, most of them have a connection to climate change (either as a consequence or a contributing factor). So why design a survey that treats climate change as an independent problem when it is really a driving force for Australia's other environmental problems?

Thursday, January 30, 2014

A Case Study in Preparedness (or Lack Thereof)

For those interested in adaptation (and urban adaptation in particular), this article by Rebecca Burns in Politico on the recent snow 'storm' in the U.S. Southeast and the resulting chaos should be required reading. Urban sprawl, poor coordination, and automobile dependence turned what would be just another day in other parts of the United States into a natural disaster for metropolitan Atlanta. Climate change may be the least of our problems.  

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Cuts to UK Adaptation Spending

As discussed here in May of last year, investments in adaptation by the UK Government have been heading down rather than up, despite plenty of work demonstrating both the vulnerability of the UK to climate change and the general lack of preparedness among both public and private organizations. New media stories are providing a bit more context including details on just how much budgets have declined. Annual spending fell from £29.1m in 2012-13 to £17.2m in 2013-14. With governments in both the developed and developing world trying to do more with less (or in some cases, less with less), it's not clear from where the resources for adaptation are going to come.   

Monday, January 27, 2014

Australian Heatwave: The Aftermath

The recent heatwave in Southeast Australia grabbed many a headline in media outlines around the world. There were plenty of stories to tell: electricity outages, broken trains, stranded commuters, not to mention the disruption of matches at the Australian Open. Once things cooled off, however, the media moved on to sexier material. But a week or so later, we're now getting a proper understanding of the real consequences. As reported today in The Age, The Victorian Institute for Forensic Medicine has estimated 139 excess deaths from January 13 to January 23 compared to what would have been expected for that time period. Given the losses experienced in the days leading up to Black Saturday in 2009 are still fresh in everyone's mind, some are now asking why greater efforts haven't been made to prepare for such events and protect the most vulnerable.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Beware of Greeks Bearing Gifts. . .

As evidenced by articles such as this at 'American Thinker', conservatives are again pushing adaptation as the responsible solution to climate change (which, you know, probably doesn't exist anyway):

"With adaptation -- adapting to climate as we go along -- there is no imperative for immediate action. If it turns out that the Earth not warming catastrophically, we will save a lot of money, and if it seems clear that, for example, sea levels are rising, then we spend money in 2030 or 2040 to increase the height of seawalls and take other measures to protect our coastal cities, at a time when our descendants will be wealthier and their technology far superior to ours."
I'll ignore some of the article's other flaws (including using dodgy science to estimate future sea-level rise - hello, ever heard of ocean heat uptake) and focus on the two truly erroneous assumptions it contains: a) that adaptation will be easy and b) that adaptation can be delayed. Perhaps we should be happy to hear that adaptation in the future will be easy, because at the moment it looks like pretty hard work. Most parts of the United States (if not the world) aren't doing anything and the research literature now documents a litany of reasons why. It would be nice if new technology and deeper pockets will solve all our problems. However, much of the infrastructure in countries like the United States (which I hear is among the world's wealthiest) is in need of upgrade or replacement. But it hasn't happened. One reason - the cost. The U.S. is going to have to invest trillions in coming years just to deal with the infrastructure maintenance backlog, not to mention the demands for new infrastructure. Adding adaptation costs into the mix isn't going to help. For example, a new 1.8 mile storm surge barrier installed in Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina cost taxpayers $1.1 billion and it took five years to construct. As the article's author notes - even in places where vulnerabilities are well-known (e.g., New York City or New Orleans before Katrina) we don't invest in risk management. We might be wealthier in the future, but that doesn't mean we'll have money to spare. I don't see battles over federal budget appropriations becoming less difficult over time. 

But even if adaptation were easy, it's not true that we can simply wait and see what's going to happen or that waiting is invariably the most efficient choice. Sure, any number decisions can be postponed, and real options theory suggests there is value in such delays (or, more specifically, there is value in not get locked in to a particular path, which isn't necessarily the same thing). But ultimately, the decision isn't mitigate now or adapt later, it's mitigate now and adapt now. And if we don't mitigate now, we'll have to adapt that much more later. 


Hopefully, American thinking is a bit more nuanced and critical than reflected in American Thinker.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Institute for Community Resiliency and Climate Adaptation

The state of Connecticut is poised to launch a new adaptation research center at the University of Connecticut to help businesses, communities, and homeowners prepare for climate variability and climate change. Interestingly, the center is being financed from the proceeds of a court settlement with Unilever associated with violation of its water discharge permit. Perhaps this is a new approach to adaptation finance?  

Massachusetts Adaptation Initiative

Last week, Massachusetts Governor Patrick launched a $50 million climate change initiative to assess and address climate vulnerability in the State's public health, transportation, energy and built environment systems. Given $40 million of those funds are to be allocated to hardening energy infrastructure through municipal grants, it's no secret where the priorities lie. Much of the remaining funds are being channeled into coastal resilience.