America’s Climate Choices #3 – Adapting to the Impacts of Climate Change

The National Research Council has released three reports focusing on why the US should act now to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and form a coherent plan to deal with the changing climate.

[social_buttons]”These reports show that the state of climate change science is strong,” said Ralph J. Cicerone, president of the National Academy of Sciences. “But the nation also needs the scientific community to expand upon its understanding of why climate change is happening, and focus also on when and where the most severe impacts will occur and what we can do to respond.”

The third of the reports released under the America’s Climate Choices suite of studies requested by Congress looks specifically at the impacts of climate change on America and how the U.S. can begin reacting to these changes.

“These actions,” states the report, referring to the various ways in which humanity has adjusted to the environment, “have been taken in response to a climate that has been relatively stable for the past 10,000 years. Planning for adaptation to climate change (rather than climate variability),” continues the report, “is already under way in many sectors likely to be affected, from agricultural to tourism, with states and localities undertaking the most explicit planning to date.”

One example the authors note is that of Philadelphia’s recently designed early warning system for heat waves in an effort to reduce associated illnesses and deaths. The system, the Hot Weather-Health Watch/Warning System makes it so that whenever the National Weather Service issues a heat wave warning all television, radio stations and newspapers are asked to publicize the warning, along with information on how to avoid heat-related illnesses.

Another example is that faced by several Alaskan communities. Once nomadic tribes that retreated from the coast and rivers during bad weather seasons, these communities have now become rooted in one spot over the last hundred years due to the building of houses, schools, etc. This has left the tribes once again at the mercy of the environment without the ability to pick up and move as their ancestors had. Six Alaskan communities are already planning relocations, though no funds have been allocated for the process. On top of this the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have identified 160 other villages throughout Alaska that are threatened by climate issues and which could suffer relocation costs upwards of $30 million.

“Adaptation to climate change calls for a new paradigm that manages risks related to climate change by recognizing the prospects for departures from historical conditions, trends, and variation,” states the report. “This means not waiting until uncertainties have been reduced to consider adaptation actions.”

“Mobilizing now to increase the nation’s adaptive capacity can be viewed as an insurance policy against an uncertain future.”

There is currently no clear federal policy directive that encourages a proactive stance to adaptation to climate change, or a venue for managers to share their ideas and collaborate on the lessons learned. Adaptation decisions are going to have to be made by decision-makers in federal, state, tribal and local governments, the private sector, non-governmental organisations, and community groups. And though the lessons learned will be wide and varied, often specific to a certain region, all information gathered can be used to help, and should have a venue to be aired.

The America’s Climate Choices website includes briefs of each of the three new reports.

Please check out our articles on the other two reports:

America’s Climate Choices #1 – Advancing the Science of Climate Change and
America’s Climate Choices #2 – Limiting the Magnitude of Climate Change

Source: National Academy of Sciences

Image Source: Alaskan Dude

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