Planning for Climate Change

What will the future hold? Who has that crystal ball to make such forecasts?

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Planning for climate change requires a much better “crystal ball” than we have now. The IPCC reports show the current scientific CONSENSUS about the effects of 1.5C and 2.0C warmings by 2050. But what if those warmings happen sooner than we think? Shouldn’t we be planning for “worst case” scenarios? The question of how to go about planning for the effects of climate change is not academic and also should not be left to most government agencies. Perhaps the best example of planning for a warmer, wetter, hotter and (in some places) drier future is the U.S. military, by most accounts the best managed large organization in the U.S. and perhaps the world.

The US military is  the best example of how to apply technology under extreme conditions.

The US military is the best example of how to apply technology under extreme conditions.

The 2014 U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) “Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap” shows that DoD is planning for 1.5-foot rise by 2035 to 2050 and 3- to 6-foot rise in ocean levels by 2100.

Why are they undertaking this planning now? Here’s the explanation:

A changing climate will have real impacts on our military and the way it executes its missions. The military could be called upon more often to support civil authorities, providing humanitarian assistance and disaster relief in the face of more frequent and more intense natural disasters. Our coastal installations are vulnerable to rising sea levels and increased flooding, while droughts, wildfires, and more extreme temperatures could threaten many of our training activities. Our supply chains could be impacted, and we will need to ensure our critical equipment works under more extreme weather conditions.

Shouldn’t our local and state agencies be undertaking this planning now, even for far-off events? Or does the “short-termism” of corporate America also extend to local politicians and city planners?

Here’s an example. Last month, the California Coastal Commission advised California cities and special districts along the coast to prepare for 10 feet of sea level rise by 2100 and to submit plans for designing resiliency into their structures and systems. In what I’m sure is a common response, the Port of San Diego told them to “shove it,” by saying “…planning for such events without a greater degree of certainty is not appropriate.” The problem of course is that when there is a greater degree of certainty, it will be far too late and or prohibitively expensive to prepare for extreme events.

How would YOU suggest that governments with the almost certain prospect of a sea-level rise of 3 to 6 feet by 2050 to 2100 in your area, taking into account greater storm surges and tides far above such levels?