Over the past year, Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker and Sustainability Director Vicki Bennett have participated in the President’s State, Local and Tribal Leaders Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience. Today, the White House released the list of recommendations presented to the administration by the task force and executive actions already in the works. Read on for details!
As part of the Administration’s overall effort to combat climate change, President Obama is committed to ensuring that U.S. communities thrive in the face of a changing climate. The Administration has made significant investments in resilient disaster recovery in the wake of devastating storms like Hurricane Sandy, ensuring that rebuilding and infrastructure projects factor in climate impacts such as sea-level rise and investing in making transit systems more resilient to flooding and extreme weather.
Last year, as part of his Climate Action Plan, the President established the State, Local, and Tribal Leaders Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience, which recognizes that even as we act to curb the carbon pollution that drives climate change, we must also improve our ability to prepare for the climate impacts we are already seeing across the country. The Task Force comprises Governors, Mayors, county executives and Tribal leaders from across the country who are experiencing climate change impacts ranging from more severe droughts and wildfires to record heat waves and damaging storms. Task Force leaders have taken bold action to protect their communities by investing in more resilient infrastructure, updating building codes, adjusting the way they manage natural resources, and planning for rapid recovery from extreme weather events.
Today, at a meeting with Vice President Biden and Senior White House officials, Task Force members will present their recommendations for how the Federal Government can respond to the needs of communities nationwide that are dealing with extreme weather and other impacts of climate change. The Administration is also announcing new tools and actions to help these leaders and others contend with climate impacts and build healthy and resilient communities, including a web-based Climate Resilience Toolkit that provides for the first time easy, intuitive access to dozens of Federal tools that can directly help planners and decision makers across America conduct their work in the context of a changing climate.
Recommendations of the Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience
The Task Force’s recommendations are the culmination of a year of work to solicit input from across State, local, Tribal, and territorial governments, trade associations, academic organizations, civil society, and various other stakeholders and translate their first-hand experiences into action items for the Federal Government to support climate-ready communities. The recommendations offer guidance on how the Federal Government should modernize programs and policies to incorporate climate change, incentivize and remove barriers to community resilience, and provide useful, actionable information and tools. The Task Force organized its report across seven cross-cutting themes: building resilient communities; improving resilience in the Nation’s infrastructure; ensuring resilience of natural resources; preserving human health and supporting resilient populations; supporting climate-smart hazard mitigation and disaster preparedness and recovery; understanding and acting on the economics of resilience; and building capacity.
This approach ensures that the recommendations reflect the diversity of needs across the country and within each community, ranging from health to natural resources management to infrastructure and building design. For example, the recommendations address how the Federal Government can limit disease spread that is caused or exacerbated by climate change through the development and enhancement of climate-sensitive health tracking and surveillance tools, and call on the Federal Government to integrate climate resilience planning and preparedness criteria throughout existing Federal programs, such as those that provide transportation funding, to ensure these projects will last as long as intended.
Executive Actions on Climate Resilience to Support State, Local and Tribal Leaders
At today’s meeting, Task Force members will view a demonstration of the Administration’s new Climate Resilience Toolkit, which was called for in the President’s Climate Action Plan and developed with input from the Task Force. In addition to providing easy access to resources ranging from a tool that helps planners see which neighborhoods are likely to flood in future storm surges to a tool that shows how predicted future drought conditions would affect regional crop growth, the Toolkit presents more than 20 case studies that feature step-by-step examples of how real-world decision makers have used these tools, lessons learned, and best practices. The Toolkit, which is publicly accessible at toolkit.climate.gov, initially focuses on the topics of coastal flood risk and food resilience. In the coming months, it will be updated to address additional areas such as water, ecosystems, transportation, and health. Some features of the Toolkit include:
- The Climate Explorer: A visualization tool that offers maps of climate stressors and impacts, as well as interactive graphs showing daily observations and long-term averages from thousands of weather stations across the Nation.
- Steps to Resilience: A five-step process that users can follow to initiate, plan, and implement projects to help make their homes, communities, and infrastructure more resilient to climate-related hazards.
- “Taking Action” Stories: More than 20 real-world case studies describing climate-related risks and opportunities that communities and businesses face, steps they’re taking to plan and respond, and tools and techniques they’re using to improve resilience.
- Federal Resource Database: The Toolkit provides centralized access to federal sites for future climate projections, as well as freely available tools for accessing and analyzing climate data, generating visualizations, exploring climate projections, estimating hazards, and engaging stakeholders in resilience-building efforts.
In addition to the Toolkit, the Administration announced several other initiatives to support State, local, and Tribal climate resilience needs, including:
- Developing Online Resilience Training for Local Officials The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is developing an online climate adaptation training module for local government officials with locally tailored information that can help officials answer questions about climate impacts and resilience opportunities specific to their community. The virtual training module, which is being developed with advice from members of EPA’s Local Government Advisory Committee, and will be accessible through the new Climate Resilience Toolkit, will also include examples of effective resilience strategies that have been successfully implemented in representative types of cities and towns across the nation.
- Announcing a Hampton Roads Preparedness and Resilience Exercise Led by the National Security Council and supported by the National Exercise Division, the Administration will conduct a climate preparedness exercise in partnership with State and local leaders, as well as private-sector, academic and non-governmental partners in the Hampton Roads, VA region on December 2, 2014. Similar to successful workshops in Houston, Texas; Fort Collins, Colorado; and Anchorage Alaska, this one-day exercise provides partners with the best-available science on climate effects and consequences and a tailored scenario designed to enhance regional climate adaptation and hazard mitigation planning. This workshop will reinforce work currently underway in the Hampton Roads and Norfolk areas to address climate impacts, especially sea level rise, extreme storm surge, and recurrent flooding.
- Creating a Disaster Recovery App The Department of Energy is launching Lantern Live, a mobile application that will provide real-time information in the wake of severe weather events on which gas stations have fuel and which neighborhoods have electricity. The app was developed in response to lessons learned in the aftermath Hurricane Sandy, and will allow users to report and view availability of fuel at nearby gas stations and access power company outage maps.
- Launching a Climate Education and Literacy Initiative The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) is launching a Climate Education and Literacy Initiative, which has been developed in collaboration with Federal partners and shaped by input from communities and organizations across the country. OSTP will convene leaders in education and climate science from the public, private, nongovernmental, and philanthropic sectors at the White House to discuss new commitments and steps to connect our students and citizens with the skills they will need to succeed as tomorrow’s community leaders, city planners, and entrepreneurs, in the context of a changing climate. This effort is a key step in growing a next-generation American workforce that is equipped with scientific information and tools, grasps the climate-change challenge, and is empowered to develop and implement solutions.
The Administration has previously taken additional actions to build National resilience based on input from Task Force members. This includes launching Federal competitions – like the $1 billion National Disaster Resilience Competition – that spur innovation and encourage investments in community resilience, new funding to support tribes prepare for climate impacts, and making vast Federal data resources on climate change impacts more accessible to decision-makers, innovators, and the public through the Climate Data Initiative. The Administration is also taking steps to ensure that public investments – whether in transportation systems, infrastructure, or natural resources – are made with future conditions in mind, and has ensured Federal agencies ranging from the Department of Health and Human Services to the Department of Homeland Security are actively incorporating climate resilience into their missions and operations. Going forward, the Administration will continue to collaborate with Task Force members and other community leaders from across the country to build a healthier and more resilient Nation.