Climate Risk & Resilience Portal (ClimRR)

ClimRR — the Climate Risk and Resilience Portal — empowers individuals, governments, and organizations to examine simulated future climate conditions at mid- and end-of-century for a range of climate perils. ClimRR was developed by the Center for Climate Resilience and Decision Science (CCRDS) at Argonne National Laboratory in collaboration with AT&T and the United States Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

The goals of ClimRR are to:

  • Provide free and equitable access to leading, peer-reviewed climate datasets to support analysis and data-driven planning for future climate risks.
  • Empower non-technical individuals, organizations, planners and decision-makers at state, local, tribal, and territorial governments to gain awareness of future climate conditions and to conduct climate risk-informed analyses to support decision-making and adaptation efforts.
  • Enable technical audiences to access to data and apply results to examine infrastructure design criteria, development plans, and other technical analyses that would benefit from the use of robust data for future climate conditions.
  • Contextualize how climate risks factor into equity considerations and barriers to community and infrastructure disaster resilience.
  • Provide near-nationwide assessments of the variables affecting future climate conditions and their potential impacts.

Burying short sections of power lines would drastically reduce hurricanes’ future impact on coastal residents

Read the full story from Princeton University.

As Earth warms due to climate change, people living near the coasts not only face a higher risk of major hurricanes, but are also more likely to experience a subsequent heat wave while grappling with widespread power outages.

Princeton researchers investigated the risk of this compound hazard occurring in the future under a “business-as-usual” climate scenario, using Harris County, Texas, as an example. They estimated that the risk of undergoing at least one hurricane-blackout-heat wave lasting more than five days in a 20-year span would increase 23 times by the end of the century. But there is some good news: Strategically burying just 5% of power lines — specifically those near main distribution points — would almost halve the number of affected residents.

Universities’ research aims to make railroads climate resilient

Read the full story at Freight Waves.

California wildfires that closed down portions of the Union Pacific and BNSF train networks for days. Severe flooding in the Midwest that damaged tracks. The extreme cold temperatures of Texas in February 2021 that caused considerable service disruptions on the freight rail system.

While the rail industry is accustomed to seasonal disruptions such as winter blizzards, the possibility of even more extreme weather events as a result of climate change takes disruption threats to a new level. Furthermore, these extreme weather interruptions come at a time when the height of the COVID-19 pandemic showed how vulnerable the supply chain can be. 

“Extreme weather and heat and their aftereffects can have catastrophic impacts,”  Karen Philbrick, executive director of San Jose State University’s Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI), told FreightWaves. “It threatens lives, destroys equipment, disrupts service and literally costs billions of dollars for response and recovery to the transport sector in the communities served. And so when I think about freight, for example, we’re already in such a crisis when it comes to the supply chain. If that were to further be disrupted because of different climate-related events then that just exasperates the problem further.”

With this in mind, Philbrick’s organization is seeking to address how the U.S. passenger and freight rail network can become climate resilient. 

A big federal grant aims to make Baltimore a laboratory for climate change adaptation and resilience

Read the full story at Inside Climate News.

A multidisciplinary team of scientists will work with city officials and community groups to protect vulnerable residents and communities from extreme weather, flooding, urban heat islands and fossil fuel pollution.

Funding trends 2022: Climate change mitigation philanthropy

Download the document.

This is our third annual report on funding trends in climate change mitigation philanthropy and covers seven years of
funding data from 2015 to 2021.

In last year’s report, we estimated that of $750 billion in total philanthropic giving worldwide in 2020, roughly $6 billion to
$10 billion was dedicated to climate change mitigation.

In 2021, we estimate total philanthropic giving by foundations and individuals grew to $810 billion, of which $7.5 billion to
$12.5 billion was focused on climate change mitigation. In the last year, growth in philanthropic giving to climate change
mitigation (a 25% increase) outpaced growth in overall philanthropic giving (an 8% increase). However, total giving to
climate change mitigation from individuals and foundations still represents less than 2% of global philanthropic giving.
Considering the ever-increasing urgency of the crisis, it is time for philanthropy to step up its ambition — and to move
more funds faster to the places that need them most.

Forestry leaders scramble to turn massive new funding into trees

Read the full story at Stateline.

Foresters, nursery managers and urban planners have long sought funding to grow more trees, replant burned areas and help marginalized communities prepare for the effects of climate change.

Suddenly, the money isn’t the problem — it’s figuring out how to spend it.

Climate Mapping for Resilience and Adaptation

Climate Mapping for Resilience and Adaptation (CMRA) integrates information from across the federal government to help people consider their local exposure to climate-related hazards. View climate-related hazards in real time and use information on past, present, and future conditions to understand exposure in your area in order to plan and build more resilient community infrastructure.

People working in community organizations or for local, Tribal, state, or Federal governments can use the site to help them develop equitable climate resilience plans to protect people, property, and infrastructure. The site also points users to Federal grant funds for climate resilience projects, including those available through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

Climate Change: Enhancing Federal Resilience

Download the document.

To reduce federal fiscal exposure to climate change, the federal government needs a cohesive, strategic approach, with strong leadership and the authority to manage risks.

The Big Picture

Between fiscal years 2015 and 2021, selected appropriations for disaster assistance totaled $315 billion. Disaster costs are projected to increase as certain extreme weather events like drought or extreme rainfall become more frequent and intense because of climate change, according to the U.S. Global Change Research Program and the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

Limiting the Federal Government’s Fiscal Exposure by Better Managing Climate Change Risks has been on GAO’s High Risk List since 2013. This list identifies government operations that, among other things, need transformation to address effectiveness challenges. Managing climate change is on the list in part because of concerns about the increasing costs of disaster response and recovery efforts.

We identified five areas in which government-wide action is needed to reduce federal fiscal exposure to climate change. These areas include the federal government’s roles as:

  1. insurer of property and crops,
  2. provider of disaster aid,
  3. owner or operator of infrastructure,
  4. leader of a strategic plan to coordinate federal efforts, and
  5. provider of data and technical assistance to decision makers.

Federal fiscal exposure to climate change can be limited by enhancing climate resilience—that is, taking actions to reduce potential future losses by planning and preparing for potential climate hazards.

What GAO’s Work Shows

Congress and federal agencies can enhance climate resilience by pursuing opportunities related to the three guiding principles of GAO’s Disaster Resilience Framework—information, integration, and incentives.

Fig01_3
GAO’s Disaster Resilience Framework Principles

GAO has made numerous recommendations related to these principles. The examples highlighted below have not been addressed as of September 2022.

1. Information

Congress and federal agencies can help decision makers access climate information that is authoritative and understandable to identify current and future risks and the impact of risk-reduction strategies. A government-wide approach is needed to provide decision makers with the best available climate-related information.

We recommended:

The federal government also needs a comprehensive approach to improve the resilience of the facilities it owns and operates and the land it manages.

We recommended:

2. Integration

Congress and federal agencies can help decision makers integrate analysis and planning to take coordinated action to enhance climate resilience.

We recommended:

  • Developing a strategic plan—with clear priorities, roles, and responsibilities—to guide the nation’s efforts to adapt to climate change
  • Using information on potential economic effects from climate change to help identify significant climate risks and to craft appropriate federal responses

In some instances, congressional action is necessary to enable the federal government to invest in projects to enhance climate resilience and help communities prepare for climate change.

We also suggested that Congress consider:

Fig02_3
Federal infrastructure projects, like this system in New Orleans, help protect against coastal storms and flooding

3. Incentives

Congress and federal agencies can enhance federal climate resilience by making long-term, forward-looking risk-reduction investments more viable and attractive among competing priorities.

We suggested that Congress consider:

Challenges and Opportunities

The federal government faces increasing fiscal exposure from climate change, in part because of the complicated crosscutting nature of the issue. GAO’s work shows that opportunities exist for the federal government to develop an approach to manage climate change risks by building resilience into every federal program. In this regard, Congress has taken some actions, like creating programs for water, wastewater, transportation, and electric grid infrastructure resilience projects, in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

More from GAO’s Portfolio

For more information, contact J. Alfredo Gomez at (202) 512-3841 or GomezJ@gao.gov.

A key to controlling emissions: More buildings in a city’s unused spaces

Read the full story from the New York Times.

Constructing more condensed communities in existing neighborhoods has been found to go a long way toward fighting climate change.

America’s summer of floods: What cities can learn from today’s climate crises to prepare for tomorrow’s

Flash flooding made a mess in Dallas in August 2022. AP Photo/LM Otero

by Richard B. (Ricky) Rood, University of Michigan

Powerful storms across the South, following flash floods in Dallas, Death Valley, St. Louis, Yellowstone and Appalachia, have left cities across the U.S. questioning their own security in a warming climate.

Dallas was hit with nearly 15 inches of rain that turned roads into rivers and poured into homes starting Aug. 21, 2022. Neighborhoods in Jackson, Mississippi, were inundated a few days later as the Pearl River rose and a water treatment plant breakdown left the city without clean drinking water. In late July, extreme storms struck the mountains of eastern Kentucky, sending rivers sweeping through valley towns and triggering mudslides that killed more than three dozen people.

Floods are complex events, and they are about more than just heavy rain. Each community has its own unique geography and climate that can exacerbate flooding, so preparing to deal with future floods has to be tailored to the community.

I work with a center at the University of Michigan that helps communities turn climate knowledge into projects that can reduce the harm of future climate disasters. The recent floods provide case studies that can help cities everywhere manage the increasing risk.

Houses in a steep valley are flooded to their rooflines with muddy water.
Extreme storms in mountainous regions like eastern Kentucky can quickly funnel floodwater into valleys, creating different hazards than flatter cities would face from the same storm. Arden S. Barnes/For The Washington Post via Getty Images

Flood risks are rising

The first thing the recent floods tell us is that the climate is changing.

In the past, it might have made sense to consider a flood a rare and random event – communities could just build back. But the statistical distribution of weather events and natural disasters is shifting.

What might have been a 1-in-500-year event may become a 1-in-100-year event, on the way to becoming a 1-in-50-year event. Hurricane Harvey in 2017 delivered Houston’s third 500-year flood in the span of three years. Ellicott City, Maryland saw catastrophic floods in 2016 and 2018, and the town flooded again in June 2022.

Basic physics points to the rising risks ahead: Global greenhouse gas emissions are increasing global average temperatures. Warming leads to increasing precipitation and more intense downpours, and this increases flood potential.

Communities aren’t prepared

Recent floods are revealing vulnerabilities in how communities are designed and managed.

Pavement is a major contributor to urban flooding, because water cannot be absorbed and it runs off quickly. Similarly, after a forest fire or extended drought, water runs off of soil rather than soaking in. This can overwhelm drainage systems and pile up debris that can clog pipes and culverts.

Failures in maintaining infrastructure, such as levees and storm drains, are a common contributor to flooding.

If the infrastructure is well designed and maintained, flood damage can be greatly reduced. However, increasingly, researchers have found that the engineering specifications for drainage pipes and other infrastructure are no longer adequate for the increasing severity of storms and amounts of precipitation. This can lead to roads being washed out and communities being cut off.

Four maps show how risk of extreme precipitation increased in some regions, particularly the Northeast, and projections of increasing rainfall in the East in the coming decades.
Even in a future with low greenhouse gas emissions, extreme precipitation events will be more likely in parts of the U.S. National Climate Assessment 2018

The increasing risks affect not only engineering standards, but zoning laws that govern where homes can be built and building codes that describe minimum standards for safety, as well as permitting and environmental regulations.

By addressing these issues now, communities can anticipate and avoid damage rather than only reacting when it’s too late.

Four lessons from case studies

The many effects associated with flooding show why a holistic approach to planning for climate change is necessary, and what communities can learn from one another. For example, case studies show that:

A man in a boat peers under sheeting along a level. The river side is higher than the dry side across the levee.
A crew inspects a levee constructed around a medical center to hold back floodwater from the Mississippi River in Vidalia, La., in 2011. Scott Olson/Getty Images
  • It is difficult for an individual or a community to take on even the technical aspects of flood preparation alone – there is too much interconnectedness. Protective measures like levees or channels might protect one neighborhood but worsen the flood risk downstream. Planners should identify the appropriate scale, such as the entire drainage basin of a creek or river, and form important relationships early in the planning process.
  • Natural disasters and the ways communities respond to them can also amplify disparities in wealth and resources. Social justice and ethical considerations need to be brought into planning at the beginning.

Scenarios: How to manage complexity

In the communities that my colleagues and I have worked with through the Great Lakes Integrated Sciences and Assessment center, we have found an increasing awareness of floods and, more generally, the challenges of a warming climate.

Many communities have some capacity to deal with weather-related hazards, but they realize that past practices will not be adequate in the future.

A man stands next to a long metal door that opens from the ground and is part of a flood control system for the building behind him.
Tim Edwards, facility manager for the National Archives, with the flood control gate system that kept a 2019 storm from flooding the building in Washington, DC. Bill O’Leary/The Washington Post via Getty Images

We have found that by focusing on vulnerabilities, discussions about future climate risk become more real. Communities start to recognize the interconnectedness of zoning, storm drains and parks, for example, and the value of clearing of debris from stream beds. They also see the importance of engaging regional stakeholders to avoid fragmented and ineffective adaptation responses.

We use scenario planning to help officials examine several plausible climate futures as they develop strategies to deal with specific management challenges. Examining case studies and past floods provides a way to consider future flooding events from an experience base of known community vulnerabilities.

In most exercises I have participated in, local officials’ instinct is to protect property and persist without changing where people live. However, in many cases, that might only buy time before people will have little option but to move. Scenario planning can bring focus to these difficult choices and help individuals and communities gain control over the effects of climate change.

This article was updated Aug. 26, 2022, with flooding in Mississippi.

Richard B. (Ricky) Rood, Professor of Climate and Space Sciences and Engineering and School of Environment and Sustainability, University of Michigan

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.