Thursday, October 29, 2009

US slow in climate change adaptation

Sustainable Business: The majority of federal, state and local officials have not taken steps to adapt to the impacts of global warming, according to a report released by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO). The report, "Climate Change Adaption," includes several case studies and examples of how federal, local, state and even international governments can effectively move forward to protect coastlines, infrastructure, and citizens from rising sea levels, intensifying storms, droughts, and other impacts from global warming.

The report was requested by Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and coincides with a hearing on the topic of adaptation measures held Thursday in Chairman Markey’s Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming.

"A robust answer to the threat of climate change includes preventing the worst impacts and preparing for the reality that global warming impacts are already occurring," said Chairman Markey. "If we are going to avoid the worst effects of global warming, we must pass comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation. However, we also must prepare for the effects of global warming that will realistically occur."

The GAO authors surveyed nearly 200 officials knowledgeable about adaptation to climate change from federal, state and local government offices and agencies, including planners, scientists and public health officials. The survey showed that lack of funding for adaptation measures (83.8% of respondents) and the complexity of future impacts (76.7% of respondents) are "very or extremely challenging" barriers to addressing adaptation.

However, case studies in the report show that there are examples of effective local, state and international programs to reduce vulnerability from climate impacts. The report focused on the state of Maryland’s efforts to protect low-elevation habitat and infrastructure from future sea-level rise and storms; New York City’s integrated carbon-cutting and infrastructure-protecting campaign; King County, Washington’s plan to protect water systems and prevent flooding; and London’s tidal gates holding back storm surges in the River Thames….

Bird's Eye View of New York and Environs, around 1865, from Vincent Virga: Historical Maps and Views New York. Black Dog & Leventhal, 2008. Original apparently by John Bachmann (1814–1896)

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