I wrote this story for Grist, where it first appeared on Novembrt 24, 2010.
As it becomes ever more clear that Congress has retreated from climate change legislation faster than a Greenland glacier, cities and states are starting to focus on adapting to the inevitable.
A report released this week by the California Adaptation Advisory Panel laid out the myriad threats climate change poses to the Golden State — as well as strategies to anticipate and prepare for rising sea levels, along with more wildfires, heat waves, and water shortages.
“Failure to anticipate and plan for climate variability and the prospect of extreme weather and related events in land development patterns and in natural resource management could have serious impacts far beyond what has already been experienced,” the report states.
In short, California needs to deploy monitoring technology along its 1,100-mile coastline and overhaul its approach to land use decision-making.
Eight cities and counties across the United States, meanwhile, have joined what is being called the nation’s first climate adaptation effort. The participants are Boston, Cambridge, Mass., Flagstaff, Ariz., Tucson, Ariz., Grand Rapids, Mich., Lee County, Fla., Miami-Dade County, Fla., and the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission.
Created by the ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability, a Washington nonprofit, the Climate Resilient Communities program gives the cities and counties planning and database tools to prepare for rising temperatures and sea levels.
“Local governments have a responsibility to protect people, property, and natural resources, and these leading communities wisely recognize that climate change is happening now, and that they must begin planning for impacts that will only become more severe in the coming decades,” Martin Chávez, ICLEI USA’s executive director and a former mayor of Albuquerque, said in a statement.
The idea is to create a standardized municipal planning process to prepare for climate change.
Cities can use the organization’s Adaptation Database and Planning Tool, or ADAPT, to conduct a survey of their vulnerability to climate change and develop and implement a climate preparedness plan.
Just as responsibility for combating global warming has fallen to cities and states in the wake of Congress’ failure to act, so has the duty to get ready for an uncertain future.