Friday, February 08, 2013

EPA Releases Draft Climate Change Adaptation Plan For Comment

Feb 8: U.S. released its Draft Climate Change Adaptation Plan (dated June 29, 2012) for public comment. The official notice was published in the Federal Register today (February 8, 2013) [78 FR 9387-9388]. The plan, is now open for comments through April 9, 2013. Other departments and agencies also released their 2012 Strategic Sustainability Performance Plans which for the first time ever also include Climate Change Adaptation Plans [See separate article below].
    The plan examines the ways EPA programs are vulnerable to a changing climate and how the Agency can adapt to continue meeting its mission of protecting human health and the environment. Every program and regional office within EPA is currently developing an Implementation Plan outlining how each considers the impacts of climate change in its mission, operations, and programs, and carrying out the work called for in the agency-wide plan. The Plan indicates in part:

"We live in a world in which the climate is changing. Changes in climate have occurred since the formation of the planet. But humans are now influencing Earth's climate and causing it to change in unprecedented ways.

"It is in this rapidly changing world that EPA is working to fulfill its mission to protect human health and the environment. Many of the outcomes EPA is working to attain (e.g., clean air, safe drinking water) are sensitive to changes in weather and climate. Until now, EPA has been able to assume that climate is relatively stable and future climate will mirror past climate. However, with climate changing more rapidly than society has experienced in the past, the past is no longer a good predictor of the future. Climate change is posing new challenges to EPA's ability to fulfill its mission.

"It is essential that EPA adapt to anticipate and plan for future changes in climate. It must integrate, or mainstream, considerations of climate change into its programs, policies, rules and operations to ensure they are effective under future climatic conditions. Through climate adaptation planning, EPA will continue to protect human health and the environment, but in a way that accounts for the effects of climate change.

"EPA has not yet conducted a detailed quantitative assessment of the vulnerability of its mission to climate change. This Climate Change Adaptation Plan uses expert judgment, combined with information from peer-reviewed scientific literature on the impacts of climate change, to identify potential vulnerabilities. It then presents priority actions the Agency will take to begin integrating climate adaptation planning into its activities.

"EPA's focus on climate adaptation is part of a larger federal effort to increase the nation's adaptive capacity and promote a healthy and prosperous nation that is resilient to a changing climate . A central element of EPA's efforts to adapt to a changing climate will be to strengthen the adaptive capacity of its own staff and its partners across the country. It will increase staff's awareness of ways that climate change may affect their ability to implement effective programs. It will empower staff to integrate climate adaptation into the work they do by providing them with the necessary data, information and tools. . .

"The strategic performance measures contained in the FY 2011-2015 Strategic Plan commit the Agency to integrating adaptation planning into five major rulemaking processes and five major financial assistance mechanisms by 2015, using existing authorities. They also call for the integration of adaptation planning into five major scientific models or decision-support tools used in implementing Agency environmental management programs. These Strategic Plan commitments represent the Agency's best and most informed judgment about the most effective mechanisms for building adaptive capacity and promoting adaptive planning within EPA and by its partners. They also provide a set of measures for monitoring the Agency's progress on adaptation planning. . .

"The federal government has an important and unique role in climate change adaptation, but is only one part of a broader effort that must include public and private partners throughout the country and internationally. Partnerships with states, tribes, local communities, other governments and international organizations, many of which have already begun to implement adaptation measures, are essential.

   EPA indicates for example that data, information, and/or research needs which present potential vulnerabilities include:
  • Characterization of local impacts to precipitation and hydrology for use in planning long-lived water infrastructure.
  • Monitoring shifts in water quality and aquatic ecosystems in watersheds, and methods for incorporating such changes into water quality programs.
  • The potential impact of more intense weather events on EPA's disaster response planning efforts.
  • The site-specific impacts of climate change on Brownfields, Corrective Action Facilities under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), Superfund sites, RCRA Treatment, Storage and Disposal (TSD) facilities, non-hazardous solid waste facilities, and Leaking Underground Storage Tanks.
  • The effect of climate change on energy efficiency programs given changes in energy demand and supply.
  • The interactions between climate and the stratospheric ozone layer.
  • The effects of climate change on multi-pollutant interactions in ecosystems.
  • A characterization of climate-related trends in chemical use (e.g., changing patterns of pesticide use and new chemical exposures to people and the environment), and implications for the review process for new chemicals or the registration process for new pesticides.
    Access the FR announcement (click here). Access the complete 55-page Plan which includes links to many referenced items (click here). Access the EPA docket for this action to submit and review comments (click here). Access EPA's
Federal and EPA Climate Change Adaptation Programs website for more information including Adaptation Programs for other agencies (click here). [#Climate]
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