As news of California’s epic drought continues to reverberate around the nation, a meeting today may offer some hope. The President’s Task Force on Climate Resilience and Preparedness will convene in Los Angeles, California today for the next round of meetings to determine ways the federal government can assist local efforts to address and prepare for the impacts of climate change. The group represents a significant opportunity to bridge the gap between local and federal climate action.
In the State of the Union address last night, President Obama called to make this “a year of action.” Addressing climate change will require his administration to make that call a reality.
The most important task the administration can take is to set greenhouse gas emissions standards for existing power plants—a move that the President highlighted in his speech last night. Ambitious power plant standards are a critical starting point if the United States is to rise to the climate change challenge.
When President Obama addresses the nation later today, climate change is expected to be featured. The president recently said that one of his personal passions is “leaving a planet that is as spectacular as the one we inherited from our parents and our grandparents.” The next two years will determine if his administration can meet this standard.
As we recap in our extreme weather timeline below, this year saw a range of catastrophic events—from Typhoon Haiyan causing more than 6,000 deaths in the Philippines, to severe drought in California, to raging wildfires in Prescott, Arizona. A new report shows that 2013 ranks as the fourth-warmest year on record (tied with 2003). And this December marks the 346th consecutive month with global average temperatures above the 20th-century average.
Take a look at four U.S. cities—Boulder, CO.; Salt Lake City, UT; Pinecrest, FL.; and Hoboken, NJ—and it's clear that they are at the frontlines of climate change. But take a closer look and you’ll see that they’re also at the forefront of local climate action.
While leaders in Washington, D.C. grapple with a potential national economic crisis, in Florida, mayors and citizens are taking action—on climate change and sea-level rise, that is. Florida Atlantic University (FAU) will host its second annual Sea Level Rise Summit this week, bringing together national and international experts to discuss the impacts of sea-level rise and storm surge on local and national economies.
“The time to act is now… We cannot afford to do nothing.”
This was the message of Mayor Will Sessoms from Virginia Beach, VA, delivered last Friday at a conference on "Adaptive Planning for Flooding and Coastal Change." Like so many cities along the Atlantic coast, Virginia Beach is at the frontlines of climate change, experiencing impacts like sea-level rise and recurrent coastal flooding. But as we learned at the event, the city and its surrounding communities are emerging as leaders in engaging in initiatives to address these issues.
“We are not as well prepared as we need to be to address the full scope of projected realities in the year 2100” Mayor Sessoms stated, “and we can, and must, make continued improvements.” His message was echoed by a group of bipartisan mayors and state delegates, city planners, legal experts, and university scientists. They stressed that while state and federal governments often struggle to move beyond the political debate of whether manmade climate change is happening, residents of the Tidewater area of Virginia are focused on developing a robust response to rising seas and recurrent coastal flooding.
Mayor Sessoms’ sentiments paralleled the earlier statements of Democratic Mayor Paul Fraim from Norfolk, VA that "[t]his is one of the greatest threats of our lifetime,” and “a threat that we can no longer afford to ignore."
As extreme weather events like wildfires, heat waves, downpours, and droughts continue to make headlines in the United States and around the world, many have wondered what their connection is to climate change. A new report sheds some light, firmly drawing correlations between several extreme weather events in 2012 and human-induced warming.
As I prepare to take part in an event on hurricanes and extreme weather in Miami, Florida later today, it’s clear just how much climate change threatens the state’s local communities. Florida is the most vulnerable U.S. state to sea-level rise, with seas projected to rise along the state’s coast by as much as 2 feet by 2060--threatening valuable infrastructure, homes, and communities. Even Superstorm Sandy--which had the greatest impacts in New York and New Jersey--caused significant damages along Florida’s east coast while centered miles offshore. Rising seas contributed to Sandy’s storm surge and tidal surges, causing flooding throughout Miami-Dade County and sweeping away portions of State Road A1A in Fort Lauderdale.
But as overly concerned as I am of the climate change impacts Florida faces, I’m also encouraged. Florida has something that few other states have: A bipartisan collaboration to address global warming’s disastrous impacts.
Last month, Death Valley, California experienced the highest June temperature ever recorded (129 degrees F!). Fires have been blazing in the western United States, leading to catastrophic losses of life. We’re barely more than a month into summer in the Northern Hemisphere, and it has started off extreme.