Climate Mitigation and Adaptation News
September 21, 2017
A biweekly newsletter of the Capital Region Climate Readiness Collaborative
Irma broke all the records: the largest evacuation in US history at 5.6 million people; the strongest Atlantic Ocean storm, with winds sustained at 185 mph for 65 consecutive hours; and the most Accumulated Cyclone Energy. Now, Caribbean islands just starting to rebuild from Hurricane Irma are facing the horror of a second Category 5 hurricane in two weeks. These simultaneous disasters should be enough to end all debates, denial, and political posturing. As this NPR columnist says, "From the elderly residents in a flooded nursing home to first responders racing in boats across wave-tossed rivers that were interstate highways the day before, we all saw the ultimate reality of climate change as nothing less than concentrated human suffering. It was millions people in the jaws of desperation. And if we turned our eyes to Bangladesh, India and Nepal, we could see millions more at peril. Katrina, Sandy and, now, Harvey - with each of these powerful storms we get a view into how a changing climate may play out in the real world beyond arguments and abstractions."
How did a wet winter in the western US lead to a severe year for wildfires?
Photo: Noah Berger/Reuters
More than two dozen named fires are burning across Washington and Oregon, and 2.86 million acres have burned in British Columbia, the largest yet for the province. According to wildfire experts, the answer lies in the summer's record-breaking, lingering heat. In other words, the exceptionally warm, dry July and August were enough to dry out fuels and cancel out the fire-dampening effect of the winter storms. Aridity has an exponential effect on wildfires, and experts say the western US is now 3 degrees F (1.5C) warmer than it would be in the absence of climate change. The total area burned in the western US over the past 33 years is double what it would have been without climate change - an addition equal to the area of Massachusetts and Connecticut combined. The area of annual burned forest in the Pacific Northwest has increased by nearly 5000 percent since the early 1970s. (  The Atlantic)
Wildfires could have long-term effects on water supply and quality in the western US
An increase in wildfire-burned areas in the western US is expected to increase soil erosion rates within watersheds, causing more sedimentation in downstream rivers and reservoirs, according to a study from the US Geological Survey. Sedimentation could reduce reservoir storage, increase reservoir maintenance costs, and boost the costs of water treatment and delivery, and water quality would also decrease. By 2050, sedimentation could at least double in over one-third of Western watersheds and increase by at least 10 percent in nearly 90 percent of the 471 large watersheds studied. At least 65 percent of the West's water supply originates in watersheds surrounded by fire-prone vegetation. Communities could identify at-risk water resources and evaluate current watershed management and protection plans. ( Link; Study)
Six questions on hurricanes and climate change
Photo: NASA/NOAA GOES Project
Though scientists are still wrestling with some of the specifics of how climate change is impacting hurricanes, a lot is known, including the fact that hurricane seasons like this one could be the new normal. Major storms are falling outside their normal geographic and temporal range - Irma is the easternmost hurricane on record, while the first named storm appeared in April. The intensity, frequency and duration of North Atlantic hurricanes have increased since the early 1980s. The frequency of the strongest storms-category 4 and 5 hurricanes-has increased too. One study based on two decades of data found that hurricanes intensify significantly faster now than they used to, reaching Category 3 wind speeds nine hours faster than they did in the 1980s. ( InsideClimateNews)
Four underappreciated ways that climate change could make hurricanes even worse
If the globe's oceans are warming in general, that could mean that the regions in which hurricanes (or typhoons or tropical cyclones) can form - currently, seven major "basins" across the globe - could shift. Or, it could mean that these storms - generally creatures of the tropics - will be able to maintain their strength in new places, farther from the equator. Any shift in hurricane formation or arrival regions could have large implications for coastlines that aren't accustomed to storms. Rapid intensification and a longer hurricane season are some other ways in which climate change may affect hurricanes. ( Washington Post)
Major broadcast networks ignore climate change in role of the US's severe hurricanes.
Photo: Reuters/Christian Tycksen
An analysis from Media Matters found that over the last two weeks only one of the three major networks discussed climate change in the context of Hurricane Harvey. While CBS touched on the issue in interviews with experts, ABC and NBC made no mention of climate science. That's troubling because network news broadcasts reach an enormous number of people - far more than print outlets or cable news. CNN, for example, has around 1 million primetime viewers and The New York Times has a little more than 2.3 million digital-only subscribers. NBC Nightly News, by contrast, reaches almost 9 million Americans every night. In 2016, the three major networks and Fox spent a grand total of 50 minutes on the carbon crisis. ( Quartz)
California heat wave kills 6, signaling a dangerous trend
California's record-breaking heat wave over Labor Day weekend killed six people, all elderly, in San Francisco and San Mateo County. Many older buildings in the Bay Area lack air-conditioning; three of the victims lived alone and died in their homes. This year already saw California's warmest June-August period; now the heat has spread to the typically cooler coast, with San Francisco breaking temperature records at 106, San Rafael reaching 108, and San Luis Obispo 112. Lack of night time cooling and greater humidity from a warmer ocean also contributes to health impacts, as people don't get respite from the heat. ( Link)
Scripps says climate change could be existential threat for humanity
There's a small but distinct possibility that rapid global warming could pose an existential threat to the survival of humans by 2050, according to UC San Diego's Scripps Institute of Oceanography. A new paper from renowned climate scientist Dr. Veerabhadran Ramanathan estimates that there's a 5 percent chance of catastrophic climate change within three decades, and a smaller chance it would broadly wipe out human life. ( Link)
How the insurance industry can push us to prepare for climate change
Photo: Harvard Business Review
Innovations in spatial sciences, combined with big data, raise the possibility of the insurance industry introducing innovative pricing strategies that induce private real estate owners and local governments to take efforts that together yield a more resilient real estate capital stock. In short, the insurance industry is adapting in order to profit from climate risk, and in doing so it will help society adapt as well. Until recently, though, property insurance has lagged in its use of data to engage in price differentiation. But we now see insurers exploiting geographically refined data to more precisely estimate land parcel risk. ( Link)
Highlighting Local Solutions
South Florida takes concrete climate adaptation actions
Photo: Joe Cavaretta/Sun-Sentinel
Once regarded as a sign of United Nations interference, climate change planning has now become as ordinary in South Florida government as hardening for hurricanes. Just in 2016, the Broward County Commission took climate-change related votes 23 times. The work that's been done mostly is marked in policies and maps, largely unnoticed by the public. But the work will guide the spending of public funds, and will change how homes, buildings, roads and sidewalks are built, as the region redevelops. Broward County ordered that new flood maps be drawn using predictions of higher waters, and Fort Lauderdale raised the required height of sea walls and the elevation of home sites. Palm Beach County added hybrid vehicles to the public fleet, adjusted traffic signal timing to reduce emissions at traffic signals and created "living shorelines" where plants provide protection instead of concrete. (  Sun Sentinel)
Tools and Resources
National Equity Atlas
The National Equity Atlas is a first-of-its-kind data and policy tool for the community leaders and policymakers who are working to build a new economy that is equitable, resilient, and prosperous. It is a comprehensive resource for data to track, measure, and make the case for inclusive growth. The Atlas contains data on demographic change, racial and economic inclusion, and the potential economic gains from racial equity for the 100 largest cities, 150 largest regions, all 50 states, and the US as a whole. The Atlas provides data summaries, snapshots, charts, graphs, and maps to equip community leaders and policymakers with the facts and analyses needed understand how well a community's diverse populations can participate in its economic vitality, contribute to its readiness for the future, and connect to its assets and resources. ( Link)
Upcoming Opportunities
ZNE Technical Assistance
New Buildings Institute (NBI) is seeking 2-3 cities to receive technical assistance on zero net energy (ZNE) implementation by the end of the calendar year. NBI offers a variety of customized services to assist jurisdictions, including supporting ZNE code and policy, strategic planning, project charrette facilitation, policy analysis, staff training, and building portfolio assessment. Contact Webly Bowles at for more information.
2018 Climate Leadership Award
The application period for 2018 Climate Leadership Awards is now open! Award categories include Organizational Leadership, Individual Leadership, Supply Chain Leadership, Excellence in Greenhouse Gas Management, and Innovative Partnership. Deadline: September 26. ( EPA)
The 2017 Mayors Challenge: An Innovation Platform for America's Mayors
Part of Bloomberg's American Cities Initiative, this nationwide competition will help hundreds of cities develop, test, and implement bold solutions to emerging challenges. Apply by October 20, and as many as 35 "Champion Cities" will then win up to $100,000 each to test and refine their ideas. Five Mayors Challenge Winners will be selected based on the idea's vision for tackling an urgent challenge, potential for impact and successful implementation, and potential to spread to other cities. One city will win the $5 million grand prize; four others will receive $1 million implementation awards. ( Learn more and apply)
CalTrans SB1 Adaptation Planning Grant Program
As part of SB1, CalTrans will be making available $7 million in grants to local and regional agencies for climate change adaptation planning during the 2017-2018 grant cycle. The overarching goal is to support planning actions at local and regional levels that advance climate change adaptation efforts on the transportation system, especially efforts that serve the communities most vulnerable to climate change impacts. Deadline: October 20, 2017. ( Link)
Transformative Climate Communities Program: Planning Grants
The Strategic Growth Council is now accepting applications for Planning Grants to fund planning activities in disadvantaged communities that may be eligible for future Transformative Climate Communities Implementation Grants. Deadline: November 30, 2017. ( Link)
National Science Foundation Environmental Sustainability Program
This program aims to promote sustainable engineered systems that support human well-being and are also compatible with sustaining natural systems that provide ecological services vital for human survival. All proposed research should be driven by engineering principles, and be presented explicitly in an environmental sustainability context. Proposal window: October 1 - October 20, 2017. ( NSF)
Upcoming Events
Forest to Farm: Exploring connections between rural and urban resilience
Friday, September 22, 11.30am-1.30pm
Downey Brand, 621 Capitol Mall, 18th Floor, Sacramento
At the Cleaner Air Partnership Quarterly Luncheon, Jennifer Montgomery, Placer County Supervisor, will highlight why investing in healthy forests and productive uses of biomass are important to air quality and regional environmental and economic resilience. David Shabazian, from SACOG, will provide an overview of the Rural Urban Connection Strategy (RUCS), the Sacramento region's pioneering approach to bring rural into the "urban" planning process to address transportation, land use, air quality and rural development issues. ( Register)
Capitalizing on our Diversity: APA California Conference
September 23-26, 2017
Sacramento Convention Center, 1400 J St., Sacramento
Registration is now open for the American Planning Association California Conference. The conference includes sessions on GHG analysis as related to the updated scoping plan, climate justice, climate adaptation, health and equity, and more. ( Link)
Webinar: Using Climate Data in the Real World
Wednesday, September 27, 10-11.30am PT
Recent Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria demonstrate the importance of climate data for companies concerned with resilience planning. Join speakers from NOAA, Argonne National Laboratory, and San Diego Gas & Electric for a free webinar on the real-world use of climate data. We'll explore what data to use, where to find it, downscaling climate models, and a practical example from the energy sector. ( Register)
SMUD Living Future Project Accelerator
October 12, November 2 and November 30, 1-6pm
SMUD invites members of the development community to participate in the SMUD Living Future Project Accelerator, which supports local projects to help them achieve certification under the International Living Future Institute (ILFI) Living Building Challenge and Zero Energy Certifications. This framework applies to both new and existing commercial and residential buildings. The goal is to active more ILFI projects in the region and assist them in moving from concept to certification. The program will kick-off with a series of educational events and tours of leading-edge buildings in the region. In addition to the tours, the Project Accelerator will include engagement, technical assistance, and expert coaching; financial assistance with certification fees and documentation; and development of Living Future roadmaps for building types most relevant to the Capital Region. (Link)
Preparing People for Climate Change in California
January 24-25, 2018
Join the International Transformational Resilience Coalition for a conference on the urgency, methods, and benefits of applying psychological and psycho-social-spiritual models to build human resilience for climate adversities. From high levels of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), to financial struggles, racism and other forms of inequity, traumatic stress is epidemic today. Climate change will aggravate all of these existing adversities, and add many new ones as well. This conference will show how California can lead the nation in building widespread levels of personal and psycho-social-spiritual resilience for the hardships generated by rising temperatures and produce multiple benefits for individuals, families, communities, and our planet's climate. Early-bird discount rate ends October 15, 2017. ( Link)
Save the date: 2018 New Partners for Smart Growth
February 1-3, 2018, San Francisco, CA
Mark your calendars for the 17th annual New Partners for Smart Growth Conference in San Francisco, California. Get involved early in the nation's largest smart growth and sustainability event by becoming a sponsor or a promotional partner. Don't forget to check out presentations and materials from this year's fantastic conference in St. Louis too. ( NPSG)
About the Capital Region Climate  Readiness  Collaborative
The Capital Region Climate Readiness Collaborative is a membership based collaborative network designed to promote greater climate change resilience planning coordination in the six-county Sacramento Region. The purpose of this collaborative network is to create a forum where leaders from government, academia, environmental and community groups, the business community, and labor can come together to exchange information, identify vulnerabilities and data gaps, leverage resources, and advance comprehensive solutions in an effort to create stronger, sustainable, and economically viable communities in the Capital Region.

The CRC is a program of the Local Government Commission.