As California’s climate warms, residents increasingly endure extreme heat events that adversely impact public health. This exacerbates existing risks and will bring new challenges for different regions in the state, threatening the efficacy of traditional intervention strategies. Current thresholds for heat alerts are based on temperatures that exceed historical statistical thresholds, rather than temperatures that cause public health impacts. These ‘health-neutral’ thresholds may underestimate the health risks for the most sensitive populations. The new California Heat Assessment Tool (CHAT) is based on research that establishes local, health-based thresholds for extreme heat that help public officials, health professionals and residents understand what changing conditions mean for them. CHAT is part of California’s Fourth Climate Change Assessment, a state-mandated research program to assess climate change impacts in California, and was developed by Four Twenty Seven, Argos Analytics, the Public Health Institute and Habitat 7 with technical support from the California Department of Public Health.
Explore CHAT at cal-heat.org. This online tool advances the understanding of what types of heat waves pose public health risks and examines how the frequency and severity of local heat waves are expected to change over time due to climate change.
Read a brief report, The California Heat Assessment Tool: Planning for the Health Impacts of Extreme Heat, that shares key findings from the research and summarizes the data analysis visualized in the tool.
Access the technical report detailing technical methodology and view other projects funded by the California Fourth Climate Change Assessment.
Access the users needs assessment for a detailed explanation of the literature review and interview process that defines the data gap the research team addressed.
Climate change will continue to adversely affect public health by threatening sanitation, altering the distribution of vector-borne disease, increasing the need for effective heat wave responses, introducing new mental health challenges and more. To help cities understand their vulnerability to these impacts and build resilience, the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) developed a Public Health System Resilience Addendum for its Disaster Resilience Scorecard for cities.
The addendum includes 24 questions, defining a 0-5 scale for practitioners to quantify their responses (see example below). The questions cover the integration of public health with each of UNISDR’s Ten Essentials for Making Cities Resilient: disaster governance, disaster scenarios, finances, land use and building codes, ecosystem services, institutional capacity, societal capacity, infrastructure resilience, disaster response, and disaster recovery.
By capturing all of the possible weak spots in the broader health system, the addendum is meant to be a tool for mainstreaming public health considerations into disaster risk reduction plans, rather than just serving as a one-time assessment. Using this integrated approach can help city officials build resilience over time. Recent events like the power outage that led to eight deaths in a Florida nursing home after Hurricane Irma demonstrate the preventable nature of many public health disasters. Ensuring that critical facilities have backup power supplies and that potential hazards are effectively communicated are ways in which effective planning can mitigate loss. By understanding existing vulnerabilities and how these will worsen with climate change, officials can implement essential adaptation measures that will save lives.
Four Twenty Seven contributed to this addendum and has developed a methodology to assess climate risk exposure in U.S. cities and counties. We are continuing research on quantifying local resilience to climate impacts and supporting public health responses to climate change. The forthcoming California Heat Assessment Tool will provide public health officials with an interactive platform to understand the projected increase in extreme heat events in each California census tract, based on the sensitivity of the local populations. It will also show the distribution of frontline individuals, such as the elderly, to inform effective local heat responses. This free, user-friendly tool will be live in mid-August.
Climate change poses multifaceted physical risks for infrastructure investors, affecting revenue, maintenance costs, asset value and liability. According to the New Climate Economy report, global demand for new infrastructure investment could be over US$90 trillion between 2015 and 2017. It is becoming increasingly clear that climate change must be considered in all infrastructure investment and construction.
Four Twenty Seven, in collaboration with our partners Acclimatise and Climate Finance Advisers, published a “Lenders’ Guide for Considering Climate Risk in Infrastructure Investments” to explain the ways in which physical climate risks might affect key financial aspects of prospective infrastructure investments.
The guide begins with a discussion of climate risk, acknowledging that climate change can also open opportunities such as improving resource efficiency, building resilience and developing new products. It provides a framework for questioning how revenues, costs, and assets can be linked to potential project vulnerability arising from climate hazards.
Revenues: Climate change can cause operational disruptions that lead to a decrease in business activities and thus decreased revenue. For example, higher temperatures alter airplanes’ aerodynamic performance and lead to a need for longer runways. In the face of consistently higher temperatures, airlines may seek airports with longer runways, shifting revenue from those that cannot provide the necessary facilities.
Costs/Expenditures: Extreme weather events can cause service disruptions, but can also damage infrastructure, requiring additional unplanned repair costs. For example, storms often lead to downed power lines which disrupts services but also necessitates that companies spend time and money to return the power lines to operating conditions.
Assets: Physical climate impacts can decrease value of tangible assets by damaging infrastructure and potentially shortening its lifetime. Intangible assets can be negatively impacted by damages to brand image and reputation through repeated service disruptions.
Liabilities: Climate change is likely to pose increasing liability risk as disclosure and preparation requirements become more widespread. As infrastructure is damaged and regulations evolve, companies may face increased insurance premiums and costs associated with retrofitting infrastructure and ensuring compliance.
Capital and Financing: As expenditures increase in the face of extreme weather events, debt is also likely to increase. Likewise, as operations and revenues are impacted and asset values decrease, capital raising may become more difficult.
The guide also draws attention to the potential opportunities emerging from resilience-oriented investments in infrastructure. There are both physical and financial strategies that can be leveraged to manage climate-related risks, such as replacing copper cables with more resilient fiber-optic ones and creating larger debt service and maintenance reserves.
The guide includes ten illustrative “snapshots” describing climate change considerations in the example sub-industries of Gas and Oil Transport and Storage; Power Transmission and Distribution; Wind-Based Power Distribution; Telecommunications; Data Centers; Commercial Real Estate; Healthcare; and Sport and Entertainment. Each snapshot includes a description of the sub-sector, an estimation of its global potential market, examples of observed impacts on specific assets, and potential financial impacts from six climate-related hazards: temperature, sea-level rise, precipitation & flood, storms, drought and water stress.
Commercial real-estate, for example, refers to properties used only for business purposes and includes office spaces, restaurants, hotels, stores, gas stations and others. By 2030 this market is expected to exceed US $1 trillion per annum compared to $450 billion per annum in 2012. Climate impacts for this sub-sector include hazard-specific risks and also include the general risk factor of climate-driven migration which drives shifts in supply and demand in the real estate market.
As heat waves increase in frequency, people will likely seek refuge in cool public buildings, leading to increasing property values for those places such as shopping malls that provide air-conditioned spaces for community members. Increasing frequency and intensity of storms may damage commercial infrastructure, leading to recovery costs and increased insurance costs. Real estate managers may have to make additional investments in water treatment facilities to ensure the viability of their assets in regions faced with decreased water availability. An example of the financial impacts of climate change on this sub-sector can be seen in Houston after Hurricane Harvey. After the hurricane hit Texas in August 2017, approximately 27% of Houston commercial real estate was impacted by flooding and these 12,000 properties were worth about US$55 billion.
For more guidance on investing for resilience, read the Planning and Investing for a Resilient California guidance document and the GARI Investor Guide to Physical Climate Risk and Resilience.
Climate change impacts are already being felt in California and will continue to affect populations, infrastructure and businesses in the coming years. A resilient California is a state with strong infrastructure, communities and natural systems that can withstand increasingly volatile conditions. Executive Order B-30-15, signed by Gov. Brown in April 2015, mandates that all state agencies must consider climate change and that they must receive guidance on how to effectively do so.
To support the implementation of this Executive Order, the California Governor’s Office of Planning and Research released last week “Planning and Investing for a Resilient California,” a guidance document outlining strategies to include climate adaptation in decision-making. Four Twenty Seven CEO Emilie Mazzacurati served on the Technical Advisory Group that wrote the report, which aims to provide guidance for state agencies to both plan for future climate conditions and also conduct planning itself in a new way.
The guide outlines four steps for integrating climate into decisions and then looks specifically at investing in resilient infrastructure, providing actionable guidelines for building a resilient California.
1. Characterize climate risk
2. Analyze climate risk
3. Make climate-informed decisions, by using resilient design guidelines
4. Track and Monitor Progress
Several state agencies are already integrating climate change into their planning. The Department of Water Resources used a scenarios approach to capture uncertainty in climate, but also in demographics, economic change and land use. Examining 22 different climate scenarios, analyzing different temperature and precipitation possibilities and accounting for growth uncertainty, the agency looked at 198 possible futures. This allowed them to examine different possible management approaches and how they may reduce certain vulnerabilities. This quantitative estimate provided a range of future conditions and possible strategies for the agency to consider in its planning.
The state of California invests in infrastructure through funding of onsite renewable energy and telecommunications, providing financial assistance to projects not owned by the state and providing capital for all steps of infrastructure development owned by the state. Regardless of the type of investment, climate change impacts must be considered. It’s important to first determine if there is a way to accomplish a goal by using natural infrastructure. Assessing the potential for natural infrastructure can be done by examining the landscape, exploring Cal-Adapt’s projections for the area, analyzing potential co-benefits such as improved ecological services or water health and consulting with other groups. It’s important to compare the risk reduction and complete costs and benefits of the natural infrastructure approach with the non-natural alternative. Using full life-cycle accounting, that considers all of the costs from a project including building, operating, maintaining and also deconstructing, is essential for evaluating proposed projects. Prioritizing infrastructure with climate benefits and integrating the resilient decision making principles will ensure that investments are resilient and climate-conscious.
This guidance document is a continuation of California’s ongoing leadership in climate adaptation, which includes Senate Bill No. 379 Land Use: General Plan: Safety Element, passed in 2015. This bill mandates that every city must include adaptation and resilience strategies in General Plan Safety Elements and Local Hazard Mitigation Plans by 2017. Read about Four Twenty Seven’s work helping cities in Alameda County implement these requirements and learn about our advisory services for adaptation planning, policy consulting and vulnerability assessments.
Changing climate conditions threaten the health and safety of the State of Delaware’s most important assets: its workforce. Building on momentum at the state level to assess climate risks and implement relevant adaptation actions, Four Twenty Seven worked with five state agencies to identify and protect at-risk workers from the impacts of extreme events such as storms, floods, and high temperatures. Based on an evaluation of existing policies, key informant interviews, and surveys, Four Twenty Seven provided recommendations to more explicitly incorporate climate considerations, share agency good practices, and strengthen the fundamentals of current policies and procedures by improving processes for policy development, implementation, and enforcement. The findings from this project will be used to inform state agencies’ consideration of next steps with regard to health, safety and climate change.
Director of Advisory Services Yoon Kim moderated a panel at the 2017 National Conference and Global Forum for Science, Policy, and the Environment. The session, titled “Climate Data and Public Health: Mobilizing Adaptation Action”, explored the role of interactive data tools in the adaptation continuum – from diagnosis to planning to solutions – through concrete case studies. Presenters brought local public health and private sector hospital perspectives from across the United States. You can listen to a full recording of the panel here, and follow along with the presentation slides.