The Great Lakes region is frequently touted as one of the most climate-resilient places in the U.S., in no small part because of its enviable water resources. But climate change also threatens water quality, availability, and aging water infrastructure by exposing existing vulnerabilities and creating new ones. In this series, members of the Great Lakes News Collaborative explore what it may take to prepare the Great Lakes region for the future climatologists say we can expect.
When the calendar flips to 2021, returning and newly-elected legislators will have a responsibility to address the state’s growing need for recovery assistance in light of the worsening pandemic. Bold action on climate in the form of the Clean Energy Jobs Act (CEJA) could play an important role in this. Illinois House and Senate Democrats, both of whom retained super-majorities in their respective chambers through November’s elections, are expected to waste no time in advancing an updated version of CEJA. The revised bill addresses concerns around utility accountability and equity while also providing a crucial model for other states aiming to take big action on climate.
Department of Defense (DOD) domestic installations report extensive and varied use of community infrastructure and support services—such as roads, bridges, electricity, water, and medical facilities—that are vulnerable to disruptions from climate change and extreme weather. For example, 62 of the 63 installations (98 percent) that responded to GAO’s survey report relying on communities for electricity, access roads or bridges, and telecommunications.
DOD installations also report taking a range of actions to coordinate with organizations—including public utilities, county governments, and state agencies—to limit installation exposure to the effects of climate change and extreme weather.
Note: CUP studies result in recommendations that address threats to installation readiness; MIR studies identify risks to infrastructure outside an installation; and DCIP provides construction funds to communities to address, among other things, deficiencies in community infrastructure that support military installation resilience.
DOD administers three grant programs that support community coordination with local installations on climate change and extreme weather—the longstanding Compatible Use Plan (CUP), and the Military Installation Resilience (MIR) and Defense Community Infrastructure Pilot (DCIP) programs established in fiscal year 2020. DOD and community officials emphasized the value of these grant programs as a means of facilitating and funding coordination with surrounding communities, including through joint land use studies and community infrastructure development. In fiscal year 2020, about $67 million was awarded under the three grant programs.
While DOD monitors the status of individual CUP grant expenditures and deliverables—and plans to similarly monitor its MIR and DCIP grants—it is unable to determine the effectiveness of the grant programs. Specifically, DOD has not developed performance measures to benchmark and to track overall program performance. Without establishing performance measures for these grant programs, DOD and Congress are limited in determining whether desired outcomes are being achieved and whether current and future investments in the grant programs are delivering their intended value.
Why GAO Did This Study
DOD manages a domestic real-estate portfolio with an estimated replacement value of nearly $930 billion. DOD has acknowledged climate change and extreme weather as threats to its installations, operations, and readiness; and has noted the importance of coordinating with state and local governments to improve climate change preparedness and resilience.
GAO was asked to review DOD’s efforts to coordinate with communities surrounding its installations to limit the exposure to climate change and extreme weather. This report assesses the extent to which DOD (1) reports using the physical infrastructure and support services of communities surrounding domestic installations, and the vulnerabilities to such infrastructure and services from climate change and extreme weather, and (2) coordinates with such communities to limit installation exposure to the effects of climate change and extreme weather, and is able to determine the effectiveness of related community coordination grants. GAO surveyed 65 domestic military installations, reviewed documents related to climate resilience, and interviewed DOD and community officials.
What GAO Recommends
GAO is making three recommendations related to developing performance measures for DOD’s community grant programs. DOD concurred with all three recommendations.
Wildfires rage in the West. Hurricanes batter the East. Droughts and floods wreak damage throughout the nation. Life has become increasingly untenable in the hardest-hit areas, but if the people there move, where will everyone go?
Florida may soon require sea level rise studies before approving publicly-funded construction projects in coastal areas, under legislation adopted unanimously last week by the state House of Representatives.
The legislators sent the bill to Gov. Ron DeSantis for signature last Wednesday.
Climate actions have often fallen into one of two strategies: mitigation efforts to lower or remove greenhouse gas emissions from the atmosphere, and adaptation efforts to adjust systems and societies to withstand the impacts of climate change. The separation has led to the misinformed view that addressing climate change means pursuing either mitigation or adaptation.
This divide is counterproductive and dangerous, especially for coastal villages, farmers, small island nations and other communities at the frontlines of climate impacts. The reality is that adaptation and mitigation are two sides of the same coin. In fact, methods and technologies that both curb climate change and cope with its impacts already exist.
It is not always possible or practical to work solely on actions that are both adaptive and mitigating. Nor are these actions a silver bullet to solving the climate crisis. Simply put, where they make sense, governments and communities should pursue such actions. Below are five solutions that can both curb climate change and help us cope with its impacts at the same time:
The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) and the U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance (USFRA) have formed its Agriculture-Climate Partnership to tap agriculture’s climate-solving potential. Although agriculture contributes 13% of greenhouse gas emissions globally, it also presents an effective solution that can eliminate agriculture’s emissions and offset those of other sectors, according to these groups. This effort is stressing climate smart agricultural practices.
When it comes to adapting to the effects of climate change, scientists and policymakers are thinking too small, according to a new research review.
The authors argue that society should focus less on how individuals respond to such climate issues as flooding and wildfires and instead figure out what it takes to inspire collective action that will protect humans from climate catastrophes on a much grander scale.
Ohio State University researchers analyzed studies that have been published to date on behavioral adaptation to climate change. They found that most studies have emphasized the psychology behind individual coping strategies in the face of isolated hazards, and came from the point of view of a single household managing their own risk.
“What we know about adaptation has come from a longer history of studying the sorts of things that are getting worse because of climate change,” said Robyn Wilson, lead author of the paper and a professor of risk analysis and decision science in Ohio State’s School of Environment and Natural Resources.
“If we want to really adapt to climate change, we’re talking about transformational change that will truly allow society to be resilient in the face of these increasing hazards. We’re focused on the wrong things and solving the wrong problems.”