Climate Adaptation Planning – Challenges, Requirements, and the Need to Streamline

Climate Adaptation Planning – Challenges, Requirements and the Need to Streamline

The Challenge

Cities and counties across the United States face a variety of challenges from climate variability and change as well as non-climate stressors that changing climate conditions threaten to exacerbate. Local jurisdictions that repair infrastructure, make land use decisions, and engage communities in a way that accounts for future change, can help make their cities more resilient. However, many cities and counties lack the capacity, resources, and funding to assess climate risks, integrate climate adaptation into existing plans, and implement adaptation actions in the face of competing or more immediate needs.

Even so, a growing number of local jurisdictions are engaging in voluntary commitments to mitigate and adapt to climate change. A wide range of available resources makes this possible, and climate legislation increasingly requires it, but both can also make implementing a cohesive, streamlined adaptation strategy difficult. Several federal agencies (FEMA and NOAA), state agencies (California Adaptation Planning Guide), international institutions (GIZ), and NGOs (National Wildlife Federation) have developed climate hazard or vulnerability assessment and/or adaptation planning guidance and methods. Industry and sector-specific tools and literature are also available from a multitude of sources. No single option can meet the diverse adaptation planning needs of cities and counties across the US, but the range of sources also presents local jurisdictions with the challenges of selecting a methodology, building climate literacy, and using their assessments to inform multiple goals, plans and projects.

The Requirements

In California, legislation exists that actively seeks to promote the integration of adaptation and resilience into local planning processes. Senate Bill No. 379 Land Use: general plan: safety element (Jackson) (SB 379) calls on local governments in California to incorporate adaptation and resilience strategies into the Safety Elements of their General Plans as well as their local hazard mitigation plans starting in 2017. Assembly Bill No. 2140 General plans: safety element (Hancock) enables local jurisdictions to adopt a local hazard mitigation plan as their safety element, facilitating integration of hazard mitigation into General Plans.

To support local governments’ implementation of SB 379, the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research recently issued draft guidelines for integrating climate considerations into Safety Elements. The draft guidelines build on the State’s Adaptation Planning Guide (2012) and emphasize the need for communities to adopt a longer-term perspective in preparing for climate risks. They also highlight the importance of identifying linkages and complementarity across different elements of the General Plan and other relevant plans. Thus, there is a need to unify and streamline efforts to boost resilience and integrate adaptation comprehensively into city and county planning in a way that leverages local capacity and resources, uses the best available science and data, and meets local needs as well as relevant requirements.

It is important to note that these requirements are in addition to local commitments and planning processes that each come with their own timelines and demands. Cities that commit to voluntary agreements, such as the Global Covenant of Mayors are required both to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and address the impacts of climate change by identifying climate hazards, assessing vulnerabilities, and developing adaptation plans. Cities may have adopted several plans that integrate or overlap with climate planning, such as Climate Action Plans, Adaptation Plans, Resilience Strategies, Transit Oriented Development Strategies and more. Adaptation has a crosscutting role to play across all these forms of city planning, so comprehensive integration of risk and vulnerability assessment and adaptation action is essential.

Towards a Solution

In support of implementation of integrated climate adaptation planning, Four Twenty Seven has developed a streamlined process to support local governments in their efforts to integrate climate risks into key planning efforts, such as local hazard mitigation plans, general plans, and climate action plans. Through our work for seven cities in Alameda County, on behalf of the County waste authority, StopWaste, we designed an assessment process and report to help cities meet the requirements of SB 379. For each city, this work responds to these requirements and others by providing a climate hazard exposure analysis and proposing a set of adaptation options to help each city plan for future conditions.

The assessment and report are designed to be applicable to multiple cities and useful for multiple planning processes. The objective is to develop one hazard assessment and set of adaptation actions that can fulfill or inform multiple city demands and decision making processes. In this case, the hazard assessment focused on asset-specific exposure, however, the methodology could be expanded to include the other components of vulnerability – adaptive capacity and sensitivity – in order to meet the needs of other jurisdictions and planning processes while promoting an accessible and streamlined approach to climate hazard assessment and adaptation planning. The second blogpost in this series on local adaptation planning will discuss climate hazard assessment in greater detail, and the third blog in the series will focus on adaptation planning.


Find ideas for successful planning in Four Twenty Seven’s Process Guide on local adaptation planning and a case study on our work in Alameda County

Audio Blog: Climate Data & Public Health, Mobilizing Adaptation Action

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.



Panelists:

  • Cyndy Comerford, Manager of Policy and Planning, San Francisco Department of Public Health
  • Michele Shimomura, Public Health Manager, Denver Department of Environmental Health
  • James Evans, Sustainability Analyst, Cleveland Clinic
  • Deborah Weinstock, Director of the National Clearinghouse for Worker Safety and Health Training, Michael D. Baker, Inc.
  • Jennifer de Mooy, Climate Adaptation Project Manager, Delaware Division of Energy and Climate

Resilient Hospitals: Using Climate Data for Better Healthcare Planning

A busy medical ward is the last place you want the lights to go out in the event of a hurricane, flood or extreme weather event. These are also the conditions that can drive surges of patients to emergency rooms for treatment at a rate that can quickly outpace the hospitals capacity to react. Climate change increases the frequency and magnitude of extreme weather events and conditions – from asthma to vector diseases — likely to increase demand for healthcare. However, most hospitals have yet to integrate local climate change projections into their risk management and planning processes.

Photo Credit: GetyImages
Photo Credit: GetyImages

Working with a coalition of healthcare networks and non-profit Healthcare Without Harm, we developed an award-winning user-friendly dashboard for hospitals to better understand how climate change effects their operations and the patient population that they serve. This innovative application enables participating healthcare networks to integrate climate risk analytics into their hazard and vulnerability assessments, strategic communications and long-range planning.

The Resilient Hospital Dashboard is an interactive platform that enables healthcare networks to identify hotspots, key drivers of risk, and the specific local impacts faced by each of their hospitals. By using climate, socio-economic, public health and facility specific data, our dashboards analytics help hospitals understand the impact of climate change on their community and patients.

 

How does it work?

Our Resilient Hospital dashboard integrates local climate projections and applies healthcare indicators unique to each hospital’s situation to account for results specific to their populations. It provides hospitals with a cost-effective way to access and understand climate data relevant to their day-to-day operations and specific to the populations they serve.

dashboardscreen
Climate, socio-economic, public health, and facility data inform the risk assessment in our Resilient Hospital dashboard.

In the same way that doctors and care providers use their expertise and medical knowledge to provide treatment that returns the best long-term health outcomes for their patients, our applications leverage climate and healthcare data to provide beneficial operational outcomes. It enables our clients to consider both the near and long-term impacts of climate change and expertise that can inspire actions that enable healthcare professionals and hospitals to operate when the need for their services is greatest.

From Data to Patients

Through the Resilient Hospital Dashboard we aim to tell a story about how hospitals can improve the bottom line, and do so by capturing the many individual stories of climate change. Behind every data point we use to identify risk and impact is a living, breathing patient admitted for treatment of heat stroke, asthma, or other environmental event.

Our data analytics and research shows that the people getting admitted for care are the most vulnerable among us. They include the young, the old, and the marginalized. While we originally set out to identify opportunities for hospitals to improve their operations — and our dashboard does that too, what we ultimately created is a data-driven, visual representation of the footprint climate change is leaving on society.

The trends we are seeing create a much-needed understanding of how climate change impacts communities. From this understanding we can find opportunities to act, and help doctors and care providers choose what actions can best support their planning process, enabling them to provide more consistent and higher quality of care, resilient to the operational shocks and stress of climate change.

dashboard

The Resilient Hospital Dashboard was developed as part of our commitment to the WhiteHouse Climate Data Initiative and won the CCBJ 2015 business achievement award.

Contact Aleka Seville for a demo or for more information: 415-930-9090

Supporting Climate Resilience in the Health Care Sector

WH_OSTP_400x400On April 7, 2015 the Obama Administration announced a series of actions and partnerships to help analyze and translate the linkages between climate change and public health impacts for policy makers and citizens alike. The actions build on the Climate Data Initiative, launched in 2014 and includes the release of 150 health related data-sets on “Health Resilience” adding to the existing 500 climate-related data sets now publicly accessible.

Four Twenty Seven is thrilled to take part in this exciting effort. In support of the Climate Data Initiative, Four Twenty Seven will leverage its proprietary model and risk assessment methodology to provide a climate risk assessment for 100 of the country’s health care facilities with large patient populations.

CoverPrimaryCare_Report_Dec2014Building on the vulnerability assessment framework developed as part of the Obama Administration’s Climate Resilience Toolkit, Four Twenty Seven will screen critical health facilities and deliver an interactive, publicly accessible online dashboard that enables users to identify risk hotspots, key drivers of risk, and the types of impacts faced by specific hospitals.

This analysis and dashboard will support decision-making by enabling policy makers to visualize at-risk assets, prioritize resources, and communicate the urgency of boosting climate resilience in health care facilities.

Public-Private Partnerships

This type of public private partnership is key to the Obama Administration’s efforts to leverage big data and technological innovation to address pressing public health issues that are exacerbated by climate impacts. The interactive tool that Four Twenty Seven develops through this partnership will inform decision-makers across sectors and will be publicly accessible creating new opportunities for communities nationwide to engage in this critical discussion.

Other private sector initiatives include efforts from Microsoft, Google, Esri (ArcGIS), EMC Technology and Harvard University, with the shared objective to leverage the new datasets into effective predicting technology and forecasting models.

Through leadership at the local, state and federal level, public health officials and experts have been working to identify the linkages between climate impacts and public health and, importantly, to share best practices and lessons learned to enable implementation of “win-win” solutions that simultaneously address climate change and improve health outcomes.

Actions from the Administration beyond public private partnerships include the development of new tools and guidance, cross-sector workshops to convene key stakeholders, the integration of climate considerations into departmental policies, and training of health care professionals.

Relevant Research and Guidance

Several important reports were also released on this occasion, including:

    • A draft assessment of the impacts of climate change on public health from the US Global Research Change Program
    • A new report from the Public Health Institute (PHI) titled Climate Change, Health and Equity: Opportunities for Action which provides a conceptual framework outlining how these issues are linked and provides recommended policy actions to advance solutions.
    • Adaptation in Action, a report from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that outlines specific successes in a number of cities and regions that have taken action to reduce negative health outcomes from climate change.  In addition, the CDC plans to release a Health Care Facilities Toolkit to promote best practices in resilient health care infrastructure.
Impacts of Climate Change on Human Health. Source: CDC
Impacts of Climate Change on Human Health. Source: CDC
  • At the local level, the City of San Francisco’s Department of Public Health just released its first Climate and Health Profile which highlights the direct health effects of local climate impacts such as reduced air quality and rising temperatures and identifies areas of city that will be disproportionately impacted.

Four Twenty Seven is honored for the opportunity to leverage its models and climate risk assessment methodology to contribute to a greater understanding of vulnerability and resilience in the health care sector and to help bolster socio-economic resilience in the United States.