Events once considered “hundred year” disasters increasingly occur several times in individual lifetimes. In the face of urgent crisis, community leaders, businesses, nonprofits and individuals have seen a need to build resilience, to preserve human lives and the economies upon which they depend. Recognizing the emergence of a field of climate adaptation and seeking details on the field’s development, potential and challenges, the Kresge Foundation commissioned an assessment of the field of adaptation. This project culminated in a report, Rising to the Challenge, Together: A Review and Critical Assessment of the State of the US Climate Adaptation Field, by Susanne C. Moser of Susanne Moser Research and Consulting, Joyce Coffee of Climate Resilience Solutions, and Aleka Seville, Four Twenty Seven’s Director of Community Adaptation at the time. Read the full press release below:
The emerging field of climate adaptation is growing in sophistication and influence, but there is a significant gap between the magnitude of the challenge and existing efforts to protect people and property from climate volatility, according to a report released today.
“Rising to the Challenge, Together” provides a critical assessment of the state of the climate adaptation field in the U.S. It was commissioned by The Kresge Foundation and authored by a trio of adaptation experts: Susanne C. Moser of Susanne Moser Research and Consulting; Joyce Coffee of Climate Resilience Consulting; and Aleka Seville of Four Twenty Seven, Inc.
The report finds that the challenge of climate adaptation and resilience is an everyday reality for decision makers across the United States. Climate change is widely recognized as a critical – possibly existential – threat to humans, other species, and the natural systems on which all life depends. As climate impacts accelerate and population grows in vulnerable areas, disasters are more frequent and more devastating. Supercharged storms, catastrophic wildfires, and deadly heatwaves affect growing numbers of Americans – particularly those with low incomes who are least able to avoid or minimize the impact of severe events.
Communities across the country are experimenting with adaptation, defined as the management of and preparation for the impacts of global climate change and related extremes. They are aided by a growing knowledge base and suite of tools, and boosted by new actors including utility managers, private sector interests and philanthropy.
However, the field is largely crisis-driven and fails to adequately address the social equity aspects of adaptation choices, that should ensure all people benefit regardless of socio-economic status or race. It also lacks a shared vision, consistent funding and agreed upon best practices among other shortcomings, the report found.
“Our research revealed a growing core of professionals, committed municipal leaders, engaged community residents and others who are proactively identifying ways to make their cities and regions more resilient,” said author Susanne C. Moser. “But without much-accelerated efforts to expand and professionalize the adaptation field we fear communities, businesses and particularly the most vulnerable are at growing risk. To ensure their safety, well-being and prosperity, we must rapidly come together to slow the release of planet-warming greenhouse gases; invest in smarter, more resilient systems, infrastructure and planning practices; and do both while building social cohesion and equity.”
The report’s findings and recommendations were the basis of a next-steps conversation among several dozen climate-resilience experts and thought leaders at a January 22 workshop in Washington, D.C. At that meeting participants discussed ways to better disseminate promising resilience practices, embed climate resilience in planning and policymaking, and generate new financing mechanisms for the work.
The report recommends aggressive acceleration of adaptation planning, coordination across jurisdictions, and implementation among advocates, planners, and funders. Leaders must press the urgency of addressing climate change both through adaptation and mitigation – pushing the field to think bigger, bolder and deeper. At the same time, funding support must grow and policy incentives should be aligned to support the incorporation of resilience across different practices and sectors.
“This report highlights the urgency of building climate adaptation as a field of practice,” said Lois DeBacker, managing director of The Kresge Foundation’s Environment Program. “It is critical to expand the number of people who understand the imperative of acting quickly, which actions yield the best and most effective protections against climate change-fueled events, and how to approach climate resilience in ways that advance equity.”
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.
In the Arena is a broadcast and online series that interviews alumni of the Goldman School of Public Policy at UC Berkeley who have embraced careers in policy innovation and social entrepreneurship. Four Twenty Seven Founder and CEO Emilie Mazzacurati, an alumna of the school (MPP ’07), talked with host and fellow alumnus Jonathan Stein (MPP/JD ’13) about how Four Twenty Seven fulfills its mission to build climate resilience through social innovation by working closely with corporations and investors on climate risk and adaptation. Watch Emilie and Jonathan discuss climate data, social innovation and integrating climate risk to protect local communities on In The Arena — Finding Climate Solutions:
SB-379 is a California law that calls on cities and counties to incorporate adaptation and resilience strategies into local hazard mitigation plans and the safety element of general plans. This ARCCA learning session, held on March 29, 2017, discussed the requirements and timeline for SB-379 implementation, as well as replicable strategies and good practices to integrate adaptation into local planning from Four Twenty Seven’s work with six cities in Alameda County. Participants also had the opportunity to learn about additional resources available to support their efforts.
Organized by the Alliance of Regional Collaboratives for Climate Adaptation (ARCCA) in partnership with Four Twenty Seven and the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research.
Four Twenty Seven helps investors, Fortune 500 companies and government institutions understand how to quantify and monetize climate change impacts on operations as well as social factors that affect their value chain. Our clients rely on Four Twenty Seven’s tools and models to factor into financial and operational planning processes. Learn more about how we are helping our clients assess and adapt to climate risks.
Extreme heat associated with changing climate conditions is expected to present challenges to human health through impacts such as heat stress. Working with Denver’s Department of Environmental Health, Four Twenty Seven developed a public health and climate vulnerability index and Story Map to illustrate the spatial patterns of vulnerability to extreme heat within the City of Denver. The interactive maps of the city track built environment, demographic, and human health related indicators associated with vulnerability to extreme heat.
The Story Map and vulnerability index will enable the Denver Department of Environmental Health, policymakers, and community groups to determine which communities are most vulnerable to extreme heat, highlight how to reduce risks to vulnerable populations, and facilitate the integration of health and vulnerable populations into climate change priorities.
Integrating climate change considerations into local planning processes can be a daunting task. Climate data is complex, fragmented, and comes in a format and at a scale that does not necessarily speak to planners and GIS analysts. More importantly, interpreting climate projections and integrating it into planning and policy processes requires a nuanced understanding of climate models as well as local governments’ inner workings.
Four Twenty Seven has developed a streamlined process to support local governments in their efforts to integrate climate risk into key planning efforts: local hazard mitigation plans, general plans, climate action plans, etc. Our services blend modeling and data integration with policy analysis to help cities and counties develop adaptation strategies that address their most critical risks and leverage local strengths and community needs.
This case study presents Four Twenty Seven’s work for six cities in Alameda County, funded by the Alameda County waste authority StopWaste, to respond to California’s Senate Bill No. 379 Land Use: General Plan: Safety Element (Jackson) (SB 379). SB 379 requires cities in California to incorporate adaptation and resilience strategies into General Plan Safety Elements and Local Hazard Mitigation Plans starting in 2017. For each city, Four Twenty Seven developed a chapter that responds to these requirements by providing a climate hazard exposure analysis and proposing a set of adaptation options to help each city plan for future conditions.
Alameda County is located in the east San Francisco Bay, stretching from the shoreline of the Bay east across the Berkeley and Oakland hills. Due to its location, the county is exposed to a variety of climate hazards including sea level rise, inland flooding, temperature and precipitation changes, wildfire, and rainfall-induced landslides. While some cities in the County have robust plans for climate adaptation, others lack the targeted information to consider climate in a tangible, actionable way in their City planning.
For the hazard exposure assessments, Four Twenty Seven leveraged our partner Vizonomy’s platform to overlay regional climate hazard data with asset location data from public sources and the cities themselves. The overlay of hazard layers and asset location informed an identification of how sea level rise, flooding, fire and landslide might affect specific assets and/or the city overall. Four Twenty Seven also modeled city-specific projections of future temperature and precipitation changes using downscaled climate data, and our partner, Cadmus, conducted a review for compliance with FEMA requirements.
Four Twenty Seven used the results of these assessments, together with a review of existing city plans and the draft SB 379 guidelines from the California Governor’s Office of Planning and Research, to develop a set of adaptation actions that cities may use to inform relevant plans addressing these hazards.
The actions identify adaptive policies and projects and provide information on potential implementation partners, potential funding sources, timeframe, ease of implementation, co-benefits, and equity considerations.
Our process supports cities and counties in integrating climate change risks and adaptation into current planning processes to align goals, promote efficiency, and leverage resources. Understanding that each city or county operates in a unique context, we work closely with relevant stakeholders to provide services that meet relevant policy requirements as well as address local needs and circumstances.
Contact: Yoon Kim, PhD., Director of Advisory Services – email@example.com – 415.890.9090