By Anne T. Sulton, Ph.D., J.D.
JA Senior International Correspondent
Climate change adaptation involves designing and implementing strategies to deal with the known risks and anticipated disasters associated with climate change. The adaptation includes but is not limited to planning and management focused on protecting coastlines from the rising seas, forests from raging wildfires, and farmlands from droughts.
Rapid evacuation of people in harm’s way, and assistance after their homes and businesses are destroyed, too are part of climate change adaptation strategies.
Climate change is a global challenge requiring international cooperation. However, the devastating effects of climate change are experienced at the local level.
For example, the rising seas are associated with massive flooding in Jakarta, a city of more than 10 million people on the northwest coast of one of the Indonesian islands. The raging wildfires burned to a crisp most of Greenville, California. And, farmers in Muttama, New South Wales are asking where’s the water as previously lush green fields of essential crops wither.
Whether flooding, wildfires or drought, the local communities affected experience difficulty providing even the most basic of essential public services, i.e., uninterrupted delivery of drinking water and other water-related services. The USA’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) explains: “Climate change can make it more difficult for communities to provide drinking water and wastewater services, protect water quality, and maintain healthy aquatic environments.”
At https://www.epa.gov/arc-x/water-utility-adaptation-strategies-climate-change, the EPA offers many “water utility adaptation strategies for climate change.” Among its suggestions are constructing new infrastructure, repairing and retrofitting water facilities, increasing system efficiency, and modifying water demand.
In the construct new infrastructure category, the EPA’s suggestions include but are not limited to financing and facilitating systems to recycle water, relocating treatment plants and pumping stations to higher ground, increasing the amount of groundwater storage, and developing models to understand changes in water quality.
Among water conservation strategies, the EPA suggests reducing waste and inefficiencies. This can be accomplished, in part, by local communities reducing water usage by utilities and agriculture. It also recommends things easily done by individuals around their homes, e.g., reduce water used for washing and landscaping.
When – by what date certain – will we allocate sufficient resources to enable local communities to design and implement suitable climate change adaptation strategies?