Reconstituted climate advisory group that Trump nuked releases its report on local resiliency needs

Apr 4, 2019 by

Daily Kos

climate resiliency

A graphic illustrating Cleveland’s Climate Resilience and Urban Opportunity .

Two years ago, when Donald Trump arrived at the White House with his machete, he whacked a number of advisory committees, including the Advisory Committee for the Sustained National Climate Assessment. Its task had been to take data from the quadrennial National Climate Assessment mandated by Congress and turn it into policy suggestions for local governments and private corporations to put in place.

Not only did the Trump regime abolish the advisory committee, it has since proposed to take an adversarial approach to the National Climate Assessment itself along with the 2019 Worldwide Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community.  In other words, scientifically illiterate deniers of climate crisis will inform climate scientists how wrong they supposedly are and why their clarion call of alarm should be ignored.

This should make any sane person’s head spin, but a certain numbness has been engendered since the deniers have been playing this game for three decades. They’ve changed their claims over time from assertions like temperatures aren’t rising and Arctic and Antarctic ice isn’t dwindling to, yes, the climate is changing but that happens all the time and humans aren’t the cause and even if we are nothing can be done about it, so burn more oil and coal.

What Trump took away, however, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo restored at the state level, getting a dozen of the original 15 federal committee members and eight other experts in academia, government, and business to continue the work as the Independent Advisory Committee on Applied Climate Assessment (IAC). After more than a year of research and analysis, the IAC released its 70-page report this week in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. You can read an 11-page summary here. The authors note:

“The federal government alone cannot prepare the nation for change, and there is a need to accelerate progress by synthesizing and sharing the lessons currently being learned both inside and outside the federal government. This will require establishing sustained partnerships for knowledge, production and application.”

The report, of course, would have a lot more clout than it does if were directly plugged into policy-makers at the federal level who could direct funding toward the needs the IAC identified. Because while the federal government cannot alone prepare the nation for change, neither can states or local governments do so alone. The analysis nonetheless provides guidance for local governments and others, and it may give congressional lawmakers something to work with after the 2020 elections when, hopefully, deniers and policy delayers no longer have the power to continue their lethal climate idiocy.

A key IAC finding that does require federal policy: The United States needs but has no national clearinghouse with reliable information for decision-makers on specific climate issues such as risks of future floods, wildfire and heat-wave potential, and the likelihood of persistent droughts. Nor is there federal assistance to bolster often-inadequate local resources for dealing with the uncertainties of future climate impacts and for improving resilience in the faces of the changes that are happening and will happen in the years to come.

Scott Waldman at Climate Wire writes:

“We’re taking this very seriously, we’re saying it’s a long-term process, but unfortunately it’s the new normal, and so we just feel we have to take steps to start organizing the science so that it’s valuable in planning for that new normal,” said Richard Moss, the report’s lead author and senior research scientist at Columbia University’s Earth Institute.

“If you want to put it in the perspective of communities that aren’t yet really talking about climate change per se, it’s more along the lines of we have to do a capital improvement plan or we have to upgrade infrastructure, or put together a zoning plan going forward. How do we make sure as we do that that we don’t find ourselves putting in something today that is not going to be robust in 10 or 15 years with climate change?” Moss said. “The reframing of this is to take the knowledge that we have and figure out how we apply to the problems that they confront.”

Here’s a condensed version of the IAC’s general recommendations:

Recommendation #1: Establish a civil-society-based climate assessment consortium. The IAC recommends that national, sub-national, and private institutions join together to establish and maintain a civil society-based climate assessment consortium. The consortium would bring together practitioners with scientists, professionals, and science intermediaries to evaluate how to use knowledge to adapt to and mitigate climate change. The consortium would provide ongoing partnerships focused on shared challenges rather than produce one-off reports. […]

Recommendation #2: Assess knowledge in the context of how it is applied. To respond to needs identified by practitioners, the IAC advises that a new climate assessment consortium assess the quality and effectiveness of information and tools being applied to adaptation and mitigation. […]

Recommendation #3: Advance methods for climate risk management. The IAC identifies six areas of opportunity for groups working in climate risk management to accelerate innovation and adoption of promising methods and technologies.

One specific proposal of note:

Launch a rigorous citizen and community science initiative to improve data on impacts and responses.In “citizen and community science,” people who are not trained as scientists can participate in science.With their diversity and focus on real-world problems, citizen and community science programs are particularly promising for applying climate science to climate adaptation and mitigation (e.g., flooding in New Orleans or urban heat in New York City). The NCA3 report (Melillo et al. 2014) notes “There are opportunities to take advantage of citizen science observations…for data-poor regions, focusing on inadequately documented socioeconomic, ecological, and health-related factors, and under-observed regional and sectoral data.”

A recent NAS report also suggests that citizen science can be “a pathway for introducing new processes, observations, data, and epistemologies to science,” including climate science (NAS 2018).In spite of this potential, citizen and community science is currently underused in climate science and assessment. Increasing its use could help to fill many long-standing data gaps related to: local climate extremes and conditions; the impacts of these events; and needs for different types of adaptation measures.

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