Adapting to Climate Change in California

Many aspects of the Californian approach to controlling the greenhouse gases that cause climate change now have a sufficient track record to provide potential models or lessons for national and even international action. In comparison, the state's efforts on climate change adaptation, although multifaceted, are less well developed and thus far have focused largely on information sharing, impact assessments, and planning. Still, adaptation could advance more quickly in California than in many other regions, given relatively high public awareness and concern, extensive scientific information, a strong tradition of local and regional planning, and some enabling policies and institutions. Much more political support and sufficient financing will have to be mustered at state and local levels to enable new projects and initiatives to cope with sea level rise, water management, and ecosystem adaptation, not to mention public health and other key areas of concern. Even so, California's initial efforts to adapt to unavoidable changes in climate may offer insights for other governments that will, inevitably, need to fashion their own adaptation strategies.

2014 USDA Climate Change Adaptation Plan

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Climate Change Adaptation Plan presents strategies and actions to address the effects of climate change on key mission areas including agricultural production, food security, rural development, and forestry and natural resources conservation.

The 2014 USDA Climate Change Adaptation Plan includes input from eleven USDA agencies and offices.  It provides a detailed vulnerability assessment, reviews the elements of USDA’s mission that are at risk from climate change, and provides specific actions and steps being taken to build resilience to climate change.  The plan advances President Obama’s Priority Agenda and Climate Action Plan to integrate climate change adaptation planning into the actions of the federal government.

Climate Risk Study for Telecommunications and Data Center Services

An increasing trend towards consolidation and sharing of infrastructure in the US telecommunications sector is increasing vulnerability to climate risks, according to a new report funded by the US General Services Administration (GSA). 

The finding comes as part of a wider study into climate risks affecting the world’s largest telecommunications market. Driven in part by recent legislation, the drive towards cost efficiency and expanding overall coverage has led telecoms companies to pool infrastructure resources. This resource sharing reduces ‘redundancy’ in the telecoms sector, increasing sensitivity to climate risks.

‘Redundancy’ is extra capacity in the network which makes the operations less efficient (as there is extra infrastructure assets that are not being used to full capacity), but increases resilience to external shocks like those from climate change (as spare capacity can compensate if some parts of the network fails). 

Recent legislation allows companies to share telecommunications and data centre infrastructure and the government has also begun plans to consolidate data centres. At the same time, US federal government bodies have done much work to understand and begin to address climate change risks to essential operations and services. 

"We're seeing the US government expect more from the private sector vendors which provide telecommunications and data centers services. It's not just about quality and cost of service anymore - it's also about how resilient those services are to climate change and extreme weather." Said Peter Adams, one of the lead authors of the report and Climate Risk Consultant at Acclimatise.

The inherent tension between increasing efficiencies of services while maintaining resilience is a challenge that is replicated across all sectors, companies and societies. Successfully walking the tightrope will be crucial to providing stable services that are also cost-effective.

Getting the balance right is particularly important for crucial sectors such as communications. Such sectors not only make large contributions to the economy in their own right, but also allow other businesses and sectors to function smoothly. Climate change impacts affecting telecommunications infrastructure will likely have knock-on effects across the wider economy.

The Climate Risks Study for Telecommunications & Data Centre Services study - produced for the GSA by Riverside Technology Inc. and Acclimatise - investigates how climate change will impact the sector.

The report looks not only at the headline-grabbing impacts of extreme weather events, such as those incurred by Hurricane Sandy, but also the risks brought on by slow-onset, gradual changes to the base climate.

Supply-chain risks

Another key finding of the report is that the climate risks to telecommunications infrastructure are far better understood than those to the supply chains that support them:

“While climate risks to such vital supply chain inputs as electricity appear significant… the small but growing literature on telecommunications and data centre climate risks focuses on infrastructure to the near exclusion of enterprise supply chains” the report warns. 

Closing the knowledge gap will be vital to get a full picture of the exposure of the sector to climate change risks. 

Recommendations

  • The report makes several recommendations to help better understand and manage climate risks to the sector, these include:
  • Frame climate risks as business risks using the language of business, not science, and contextualising climate risk from the perspective of private sector companies, their customers, investors, and regulators.
  • Plan for both a changing climate baseline and for climate extremes. Successfully addressing climate risk requires careful attention to subtle impacts (e.g., the cumulative impact of increasing sequences of warmer than average days on wired telecommunications) as well as to the effects of extreme weather and storms. 
  • Build awareness of climate risks before disasters strike. Working with stakeholders to build consensus and collect the information each offers is necessary to effectively build resilience. 
  • Conduct direct consultations with the private sector to understand their needs, strengths, and weaknesses, as these stakeholders know the business, sites, and technologies best and can help build understanding of what would happen under likely climate scenarios. 
  • Thoroughly assess climate risk of both telecoms and data centre sectors, informed by consultations with experts and stakeholders. This will allow for the prioritisation of risks to both sectors according to their relative consequence and likelihood. 
  • Require federal service providers to demonstrate climate resilience in all procurement processes, with suppliers required to undertake a climate risk assessment and demonstrate how their products and services will continue to meet required contractual and serviceability performance standards. 
  • Elucidate, test, and document adaptation options as value protection strategies in both sectors, as many of these strategies and fixes remain prescriptive, undetailed, and/or untested. 
  • Assess operating headrooms for key assets in both sectors to understand the functional thresholds for critical assets in a changing climate, which will assist in identifying and prioritising risks, planning operational maintenance, and informing future capital expenditures. 
  • Assess both sectors within the context of their asset lifetimes, with climate risk assessments scaled to the life cycles of assets and equipment. Though lifetimes are short, assets must be robust during their useful lives. 
  • Include telecoms and data centres in the fourth National Climate Assessment, alongside other key sectors already represented. 
  • Provide guidance on SEC material risk disclosure. 

Oahu Metropolitan Planning Organization - U.S. FHWA Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment Pilot Project

Location

United States
21° 32' 42.8496" N, 158° 6' 54.8424" W
US
Summary: 

In 2010, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) selected five pilot teams from across the country to test a climate change vulnerability assessment model. This conceptual model guided transportation agencies through the process of collecting and integrating climate and asset data in order to identify critical vulnerabilities.

Climate Change, Water, Sanitation and Energy Insecurity: Invisibility of People with Disabilities

The problems associated with climate change, energy scarcity, water and sanitation insecurity and severe natural disasters are at the forefront of both national and international policy agendas. Increasingly, people with disabilities are those most critically affected by these environmental challenges; however, literature addressing the implications for people with disabilities remains scarce. The well-being of people with disabilities is threatened by this invisibility. Here, we present survey results that suggest how women, children, people with disabilities, indigenous people, ethnic minorities, and industry in both high and low income countries are perceived to experience these environmental challenges. Respondents ranked people with disabilities between first and third in regards to experiencing climate change impact, energy scarcity and water and sanitation insecurity. Our results emphasize the need to make the impacts of climate change, energy scarcity and water and sanitation insecurity experienced by people with disabilities a priority for local and global discourses, public policy formation and academic research.

Understanding the Impacts of Climate Change and Adverse Weather Events on People with a Disability and their Carers

This report from the Australian nonprofit Enliven outlines the various impacts of climate change on people with disabilities and their carers (i.e. family or personal attendants), and actions that can be taken to minimize or withstand those impacts. It brings together evidence, concerns, concepts, and arguments from a wide array of climate change, disability, and disaster management fields. It also explores theories of justice in general and then shapes them into its policy recommendations.

Insurer Climate Risk Disclosure Survey Report & Scorecard: 2014 Findings & Recommendations

Amid growing evidence that climate change is having wide-ranging global impacts that will worsen in the years ahead, Insurer Climate Risk Disclosure Survey Report & Scorecard: 2014 Findings & Recommendations, ranks the nation's 330 largest insurance companies on what they are saying and doing to respond to escalating climate risks. The report found strong leadership among fewer than a dozen companies but generally poor responses among the vast majority.

This report summarizes responses from insurance companies to a survey on climate change risks developed by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC). In 2013, insurance regulators in California, Connecticut, Minnesota, New York and Washington required insurers writing in excess of $100 million in direct written premiums, and licensed to operate in any of the five states, to disclose their climate-related risks using this survey.

The aim of the survey, and Ceres’ analysis of the responses, is to provide regulators, insurers, investors and other stakeholders with substantive information about the risks insurers face from climate change and the steps insurers are taking—or are not taking— to respond to those risks. Because virtually every large insurer operates in at least one of the mandatory climate risk disclosure states, this analysis effectively opens a window into the entire industry. The report distills key findings and industry trends, and includes company specific scores based on disclosed actions taken to manage climate risks. It also offers recommendations for insurers and regulators to improve the insurance sectors’ overall management of climate change risks.

Listening for the Rain: Indigenous Perspectives on Climate Change

Listening for the Rain starts a pluricultural conversation in which some Indigenous people who live in the central United States of America discuss their observations and understandings of, as well as responses to, climate change and variability. A team of Native and non-Native researchers and media artists worked together to document these stories. Not only does Listening for the Rain illustrate some of the environmental transformations distinguishing diverse Tribal landscapes, but the video also suggests some of the proactive solutions and ideas for addressing these issues that are currently being undertaken in Indian Country.

Featuring interviews with: Paulette Blanchard (Absentee Shawnee), Berrien Moore III, Renee McPherson, Dan Cornelius (Oneida), Casey Camp-Horinek (Ponca), Curtis Munoz (Kiowa), Kimberly Walden (Chitimacha), Roger Fragua (Jemez Pueblo), Ann Marie Chiscilly (Dine), Evaristo Cruz (Isleta del Sur Pueblo), Glenna Wallace (Eastern Shawnee), Maya Toralba (Kiowa/Comanche/Wichita), Wayne Kellogg (Chickasaw) and Tye Baker (Choctaw).

Climate Change Indicators in the United States (2014)

EPA is working with many other organizations to collect and communicate data about climate change. With help from these partners, EPA has compiled the third edition of this report, presenting 30 indicators to help readers understand observed long-term trends related to the causes and effects of climate change. In a manner accessible to all audiences, the report describes the significance of these trends and their possible consequences for people, the environment, and society. Most indicators focus on the United States, but some include global trends to provide context or a basis for comparison, or because they are intrinsically global in nature. All of the indicators presented relate to either the causes or effects of climate change, although some indicators show trends that can be more directly linked to human-induced climate change than others. EPA's indicators are based on peer-reviewed, publicly-available data from various government agencies, academic institutions, and other organizations. EPA selected these indicators based on the quality of the data and other criteria, using historical records that go back in time as far as possible without sacrificing data quality.

Resilient Monroe Resource Atlas

Location

United States
41° 54' 59.1624" N, 83° 23' 51.756" W
US
Organization: 
Summary: 

Resilient Monroe is a land-use planning and community design project in southeast Michigan sponsored by the City of Monroe, Frenchtown Charter Township and Monroe Charter Township. Together, these three local governments are planning for successful, resilient community adaptation to the social, environmental and economic challenges presented by climate change.