Category: Climate adaptation

The price of living near the shore is already high. It’s about to go through the roof.

Read the full story in the Washington Post.

As FEMA prepares to remove subsidies from its flood insurance, a new assessment says 8 million homeowners in landlocked states are at risk of serious flooding because of climate change.

Deploy heat officers, policies and metrics

Read the full story in Nature.

Cities need heat governance to plan for extreme temperatures and protect those most at risk.

Grant will fund climate resilience strategies for frontline communities in the Carolinas

Read the full story from the North Carolina State Climate Office.

North Carolina State University will lead a multi-institutional effort to develop climate resilience solutions in frontline communities in the Carolinas, thanks to a five-year, $5 million dollar grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Frontline communities refer to communities who experience the first and worst impacts of the climate crisis.

Climate Resilience: Options to Enhance the Resilience of Federally Funded Roads and Reduce Fiscal Exposure

Download the document.

What GAO Found

During the last decade, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) undertook targeted efforts to encourage states to enhance the climate resilience of federally funded roads, such as by developing agency policy, providing technical assistance, and funding resilience research. GAO identified projects in four states that planned or made resilience enhancements using FHWA’s resources. For example, Maryland used FHWA resources to raise a bridge by about 2 feet to account for projected sea level rise. Such efforts show the potential to enhance the climate resilience of federally funded roads on a wider scale.

GAO identified 10 options to further enhance the climate resilience of federally funded roads through a comprehensive literature search and interviews with knowledgeable stakeholders (see table). Some of these options are similar to recommendations made previously by GAO. Each option has strengths and limitations. For example, adding climate resilience requirements to formula grant programs could compel action but complicate states’ efforts to use federal funds.

Options to Further Enhance the Climate Resilience of Federally Funded Roads

1. Integrate climate resilience into Federal Highway Administration policy and guidance.
2. Update design standards and building codes to account for climate resilience.
3. Provide authoritative, actionable, forward-looking climate information.
4. Add climate resilience funding eligibility requirements, conditions, or criteria to formula grant programs.
5. Expand the availability of discretionary funding for climate resilience improvements.
6. Alter the Emergency Relief (ER) program by providing incentives for, or conditioning funding on, pre-disaster resilience actions.
7. Expand the availability of ER funding for post-disaster climate resilience improvements.
8. Establish additional climate resilience planning or project requirements.
9. Link climate resilience actions or requirements to incentives or penalties.
10. Condition eligibility, funding, or project approval on compliance with climate resilience policy and guidance.
Source: GAO analysis of literature and interviews with knowledgeable stakeholders. | GAO-21-436

Implementing multiple options offers the most potential to improve the climate resilience of federally funded roads, according to knowledgeable stakeholders and GAO’s analysis using the Disaster Resilience Framework , a guide for analyzing federal disaster and climate resilience efforts. This Framework states that integrating strategic resilience goals can help decision makers focus on a wide variety of opportunities to reduce risk. FHWA officials said that they likely would need additional authority from Congress to act on some, or a combination of, options and that the most effective way for Congress to ensure its priorities are implemented for any option is to put it in law. The most recent authorization of federal funding for roads covers fiscal year 2016 through fiscal year 2021, which ends on September 30, 2021. This provides Congress with an opportunity to improve the climate resilience of federally funded roads and better ensure they can withstand or more easily recover from changes in the climate. Providing FHWA with additional authority to implement one or more of the options could enhance the climate resilience of more—or all—federally funded roads.

Why GAO Did This Study

Changes in the climate pose a risk to the safety and reliability of the U.S. transportation system, according to the 2018 Fourth National Climate Assessment. Congress authorized about $45 billion per year in federal funding for roads through 2021 and appropriated about $900 million per year in disaster assistance for fiscal years 2016 through 2020. In 2013, GAO included Limiting the Federal Government’s Fiscal Exposure by Better Managing Climate Change Risks on its High-Risk List. Enhancing climate resilience—acting to reduce potential losses by planning for climate hazards such as extreme rainfall—can help manage climate risks.

GAO was asked to review climate resilience efforts for federally funded roads. This report examines (1) FHWA’s climate resilience efforts and (2) options to further enhance them. GAO reviewed FHWA documents and a non-generalizable sample of projects that used FHWA’s climate resilience resources, analyzed the content of 53 reports and pieces of legislation to identify options, interviewed stakeholders and agency officials, and analyzed options and FHWA efforts using GAO’s October 2019 Disaster Resilience Framework .

Biden administration releases alarming reports on climate change challenges

Read the full story at NBC News.

The reports from 23 federal agencies examine how climate change will disrupt nearly all aspects of life, including more traffic and disease.

Water Network Tool for Resilience helps prepare drinking water utilities for natural disasters

Read the full story from U.S. EPA.

Natural disasters such as floods, drought, hurricanes, winter storms, and earthquakes can interrupt access to clean drinking water. To improve their resilience, communities, and the utilities that provide drinking water to these communities, are building their capacity to return to service as quickly as possible, planning for and understanding any potential vulnerabilities in their system, and practicing response to adverse events in real-time as they happen.

To help communities and their drinking water utilities, researchers from EPA and Sandia National Laboratories developed the Water Network Tool for Resilience (WNTR), a comprehensive scientific software package to help assess a drinking water systems’ resilience to natural disasters. The software improves upon already available capabilities by fully integrating hydraulic and water quality simulation, damage estimates and response actions, and resilience metrics into a single platform. The software is available as an open-source software package and can be applied to a wide range of disruptive incidents and repair strategies.

Wisconsin regulators fund disaster-resilience efforts

Read the full story at WiscNews.

The Wisconsin Public Service Commission has awarded almost $1 million to study projects designed to keep electricity flowing locally even during major disasters.

Iowa farmers pursue actions in response to changing weather

Read the full story from Iowa State University.

Iowa is a major producer of grain, meat, dairy, eggs and other major agricultural commodities. The state’s agriculture has also been increasingly impacted by climate change-related extreme weather over the last decade as droughts, extreme rains, floods, and most recently, a severe derecho have damaged crops, livestock and livelihoods.

A new study from researchers at Iowa State University and Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, published in Frontiers in Climate, examines how farmers are responding to the increasing threats that weather extremes and related harms such as pests and disease represent.

In response to climate change, citizens in advanced economies are willing to alter how they live and work

Read the full story from the Pew Research Center.

A new Pew Research Center survey in 17 advanced economies spanning North America, Europe and the Asia-Pacific region finds widespread concern about the personal impact of global climate change. Most citizens say they are willing to change how they live and work at least some to combat the effects of global warming, but whether their efforts will make an impact is unclear.

As the shoreline erodes, one national park tries to adapt

Read the full story from PBS Newshour.

On the southern end of Lake Michigan, Indiana Dunes National Park has seen the water levels rise five feet since 2014, hastened by human-made structures and an increase in storms brought on by climate change. Higher water marks mean more erosion to the sand dunes that have run through the area for thousands of years. Zachary Green reports on how the park is adapting to the new normal. The story is part of our ongoing series on climate change, Peril & Promise.

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