FOURTH NATIONAL CLIMATE ASSESSMENT
These Summary Findings represent a high-level synthesis of the material in the underlying report. The findings consolidate Key Messages and supporting evidence from 16 national-level topic chapters, 10 regional chapters, and 2 chapters that focus on societal response strategies (mitigation and adaptation). Unless otherwise noted, qualitative statements regarding future conditions in these Summary Findings are broadly applicable across the range of different levels of future climate change and associated impacts considered in this report.
Climate change creates new risks and exacerbates existing vulnerabilities in communities across the United States, presenting growing challenges to human health and safety, quality of life, and the rate of economic growth.
The impacts of climate change are already being felt in communities across the country. More frequent and intense extreme weather and climate-related events, as well as changes in average climate conditions, are expected to continue to damage infrastructure, ecosystems, and social systems that provide essential benefits to communities. Future climate change is expected to further disrupt many areas of life, exacerbating existing challenges to prosperity posed by aging and deteriorating infrastructure, stressed ecosystems, and economic inequality. Impacts within and across regions will not be distributed equally. People who are already vulnerable, including lower-income and other marginalized communities, have lower capacity to prepare for and cope with extreme weather and climate-related events and are expected to experience greater impacts. Prioritizing adaptation actions for the most vulnerable populations would contribute to a more equitable future within and across communities. Global action to significantly cut greenhouse gas emissions can substantially reduce climate-related risks and increase opportunities for these populations in the longer term.
Without substantial and sustained global mitigation and regional adaptation efforts, climate change is expected to cause growing losses to American infrastructure and property and impede the rate of economic growth over this century.
In the absence of significant global mitigation action and regional adaptation efforts, rising temperatures, sea level rise, and changes in extreme events are expected to increasingly disrupt and damage critical infrastructure and property, labor productivity, and the vitality of our communities. Regional economies and industries that depend on natural resources and favorable climate conditions, such as agriculture, tourism, and fisheries, are vulnerable to the growing impacts of climate change. Rising temperatures are projected to reduce the efficiency of power generation while increasing energy demands, resulting in higher electricity costs. The impacts of climate change beyond our borders are expected to increasingly affect our trade and economy, including import and export prices and U.S. businesses with overseas operations and supply chains. Some aspects of our economy may see slight near-term improvements in a modestly warmer world. However, the continued warming that is projected to occur without substantial and sustained reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions is expected to cause substantial net damage to the U.S. economy throughout this century, especially in the absence of increased adaptation efforts. With continued growth in emissions at historic rates, annual losses in some economic sectors are projected to reach hundreds of billions of dollars by the end of the century—more than the current gross domestic product (GDP) of many U.S. states.
3. Interconnected Impacts
Climate change affects the natural, built, and social systems we rely on individually and through their connections to one another. These interconnected systems are increasingly vulnerable to cascading impacts that are often difficult to predict, threatening essential services within and beyond the Nation’s borders.
Climate change presents added risks to interconnected systems that are already exposed to a range of stressors such as aging and deteriorating infrastructure, land-use changes, and population growth. Extreme weather and climate-related impacts on one system can result in increased risks or failures in other critical systems, including water resources, food production and distribution, energy and transportation, public health, international trade, and national security. The full extent of climate change risks to interconnected systems, many of which span regional and national boundaries, is often greater than the sum of risks to individual sectors. Failure to anticipate interconnected impacts can lead to missed opportunities for effectively managing the risks of climate change and can also lead to management responses that increase risks to other sectors and regions. Joint planning with stakeholders across sectors, regions, and jurisdictions can help identify critical risks arising from interaction among systems ahead of time.
4. Actions to Reduce Risks
Communities, governments, and businesses are working to reduce risks from and costs associated with climate change by taking action to lower greenhouse gas emissions and implement adaptation strategies. While mitigation and adaptation efforts have expanded substantially in the last four years, they do not yet approach the scale considered necessary to avoid substantial damages to the economy, environment, and human health over the coming decades.
Future risks from climate change depend primarily on decisions made today. The integration of climate risk into decision-making and the implementation of adaptation activities have significantly increased since the Third National Climate Assessment in 2014, including in areas of financial risk reporting, capital investment planning, development of engineering standards, military planning, and disaster risk management. Transformations in the energy sector—including the displacement of coal by natural gas and increased deployment of renewable energy—along with policy actions at the national, regional, state, and local levels are reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. While these adaptation and mitigation measures can help reduce damages in a number of sectors, this assessment shows that more immediate and substantial global greenhouse gas emissions reductions, as well as regional adaptation efforts, would be needed to avoid the most severe consequences in the long term. Mitigation and adaptation actions also present opportunities for additional benefits that are often more immediate and localized, such as improving local air quality and economies through investments in infrastructure. Some benefits, such as restoring ecosystems and increasing community vitality, may be harder to quantify.
The quality and quantity of water available for use by people and ecosystems across the country are being affected by climate change, increasing risks and costs to agriculture, energy production, industry, recreation, and the environment.
Rising air and water temperatures and changes in precipitation are intensifying droughts, increasing heavy downpours, reducing snowpack, and causing declines in surface water quality, with varying impacts across regions. Future warming will add to the stress on water supplies and adversely impact the availability of water in parts of the United States. Changes in the relative amounts and timing of snow and rainfall are leading to mismatches between water availability and needs in some regions, posing threats to, for example, the future reliability of hydropower production in the Southwest and the Northwest. Groundwater depletion is exacerbating drought risk in many parts of the United States, particularly in the Southwest and Southern Great Plains. Dependable and safe water supplies for U.S. Caribbean, Hawai‘i, and U.S.-Affiliated Pacific Island communities are threatened by drought, flooding, and saltwater contamination due to sea level rise. Most U.S. power plants rely on a steady supply of water for cooling, and operations are expected to be affected by changes in water availability and temperature increases. Aging and deteriorating water infrastructure, typically designed for past environmental conditions, compounds the climate risk faced by society. Water management strategies that account for changing climate conditions can help reduce present and future risks to water security, but implementation of such practices remains limited.
Impacts from climate change on extreme weather and climate-related events, air quality, and the transmission of disease through insects and pests, food, and water increasingly threaten the health and well-being of the American people, particularly populations that are already vulnerable.
Changes in temperature and precipitation are increasing air quality and health risks from wildfire and ground-level ozone pollution. Rising air and water temperatures and more intense extreme events are expected to increase exposure to waterborne and foodborne diseases, affecting food and water safety. With continued warming, cold-related deaths are projected to decrease and heat-related deaths are projected to increase; in most regions, increases in heat-related deaths are expected to outpace reductions in cold-related deaths. The frequency and severity of allergic illnesses, including asthma and hay fever, are expected to increase as a result of a changing climate. Climate change is also projected to alter the geographic range and distribution of disease-carrying insects and pests, exposing more people to ticks that carry Lyme disease and mosquitoes that transmit viruses such as Zika, West Nile, and dengue, with varying impacts across regions. Communities in the Southeast, for example, are particularly vulnerable to the combined health impacts from vector-borne disease, heat, and flooding. Extreme weather and climate-related events can have lasting mental health consequences in affected communities, particularly if they result in degradation of livelihoods or community relocation. Populations including older adults, children, low-income communities, and some communities of color are often disproportionately affected by, and less resilient to, the health impacts of climate change. Adaptation and mitigation policies and programs that help individuals, communities, and states prepare for the risks of a changing climate reduce the number of injuries, illnesses, and deaths from climate-related health outcomes.
7. Indigenous Peoples
Climate change increasingly threatens Indigenous communities’ livelihoods, economies, health, and cultural identities by disrupting interconnected social, physical, and ecological systems.
Many Indigenous peoples are reliant on natural resources for their economic, cultural, and physical well-being and are often uniquely affected by climate change. The impacts of climate change on water, land, coastal areas, and other natural resources, as well as infrastructure and related services, are expected to increasingly disrupt Indigenous peoples’ livelihoods and economies, including agriculture and agroforestry, fishing, recreation, and tourism. Adverse impacts on subsistence activities have already been observed. As climate changes continue, adverse impacts on culturally significant species and resources are expected to result in negative physical and mental health effects. Throughout the United States, climate-related impacts are causing some Indigenous peoples to consider or actively pursue community relocation as an adaptation strategy, presenting challenges associated with maintaining cultural and community continuity. While economic, political, and infrastructure limitations may affect these communities’ ability to adapt, tightly knit social and cultural networks present opportunities to build community capacity and increase resilience. Many Indigenous peoples are taking steps to adapt to climate change impacts structured around self-determination and traditional knowledge, and some tribes are pursuing mitigation actions through development of renewable energy on tribal lands.
8. Ecosystems and Ecosystem Services
Ecosystems and the benefits they provide to society are being altered by climate change, and these impacts are projected to continue. Without substantial and sustained reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions, transformative impacts on some ecosystems will occur; some coral reef and sea ice ecosystems are already experiencing such transformational changes.
Many benefits provided by ecosystems and the environment, such as clean air and water, protection from coastal flooding, wood and fiber, crop pollination, hunting and fishing, tourism, cultural identities, and more will continue to be degraded by the impacts of climate change. Increasing wildfire frequency, changes in insect and disease outbreaks, and other stressors are expected to decrease the ability of U.S. forests to support economic activity, recreation, and subsistence activities. Climate change has already had observable impacts on biodiversity, ecosystems, and the benefits they provide to society. These impacts include the migration of native species to new areas and the spread of invasive species. Such changes are projected to continue, and without substantial and sustained reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions, extinctions and transformative impacts on some ecosystems cannot be avoided in the long term. Valued aspects of regional heritage and quality of life tied to ecosystems, wildlife, and outdoor recreation will change with the climate, and as a result, future generations can expect to experience and interact with the natural environment in ways that are different from today. Adaptation strategies, including prescribed burning to reduce fuel for wildfire, creation of safe havens for important species, and control of invasive species, are being implemented to address emerging impacts of climate change. While some targeted response actions are underway, many impacts, including losses of unique coral reef and sea ice ecosystems, can only be avoided by significantly reducing global emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.
Rising temperatures, extreme heat, drought, wildfire on rangelands, and heavy downpours are expected to increasingly disrupt agricultural productivity in the United States. Expected increases in challenges to livestock health, declines in crop yields and quality, and changes in extreme events in the United States and abroad threaten rural livelihoods, sustainable food security, and price stability.
Climate change presents numerous challenges to sustaining and enhancing crop productivity, livestock health, and the economic vitality of rural communities. While some regions (such as the Northern Great Plains) may see conditions conducive to expanded or alternative crop productivity over the next few decades, overall, yields from major U.S. crops are expected to decline as a consequence of increases in temperatures and possibly changes in water availability, soil erosion, and disease and pest outbreaks. Increases in temperatures during the growing season in the Midwest are projected to be the largest contributing factor to declines in the productivity of U.S. agriculture. Projected increases in extreme heat conditions are expected to lead to further heat stress for livestock, which can result in large economic losses for producers. Climate change is also expected to lead to large-scale shifts in the availability and prices of many agricultural products across the world, with corresponding impacts on U.S. agricultural producers and the U.S. economy. These changes threaten future gains in commodity crop production and put rural livelihoods at risk. Numerous adaptation strategies are available to cope with adverse impacts of climate variability and change on agricultural production. These include altering what is produced, modifying the inputs used for production, adopting new technologies, and adjusting management strategies. However, these strategies have limits under severe climate change impacts and would require sufficient long- and short-term investment in changing practices.
Our Nation’s aging and deteriorating infrastructure is further stressed by increases in heavy precipitation events, coastal flooding, heat, wildfires, and other extreme events, as well as changes to average precipitation and temperature. Without adaptation, climate change will continue to degrade infrastructure performance over the rest of the century, with the potential for cascading impacts that threaten our economy, national security, essential services, and health and well-being.
Climate change and extreme weather events are expected to increasingly disrupt our Nation’s energy and transportation systems, threatening more frequent and longer-lasting power outages, fuel shortages, and service disruptions, with cascading impacts on other critical sectors. Infrastructure currently designed for historical climate conditions is more vulnerable to future weather extremes and climate change. The continued increase in the frequency and extent of high-tide flooding due to sea level rise threatens America’s trillion-dollar coastal property market and public infrastructure, with cascading impacts to the larger economy. In Alaska, rising temperatures and erosion are causing damage to buildings and coastal infrastructure that will be costly to repair or replace, particularly in rural areas; these impacts are expected to grow without adaptation. Expected increases in the severity and frequency of heavy precipitation events will affect inland infrastructure in every region, including access to roads, the viability of bridges, and the safety of pipelines. Flooding from heavy rainfall, storm surge, and rising high tides is expected to compound existing issues with aging infrastructure in the Northeast. Increased drought risk will threaten oil and gas drilling and refining, as well as electricity generation from power plants that rely on surface water for cooling. Forward-looking infrastructure design, planning, and operational measures and standards can reduce exposure and vulnerability to the impacts of climate change and reduce energy use while providing additional near-term benefits, including reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.
11. Oceans & Coasts
Coastal communities and the ecosystems that support them are increasingly threatened by the impacts of climate change. Without significant reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions and regional adaptation measures, many coastal regions will be transformed by the latter part of this century, with impacts affecting other regions and sectors. Even in a future with lower greenhouse gas emissions, many communities are expected to suffer financial impacts as chronic high-tide flooding leads to higher costs and lower property values.
Rising water temperatures, ocean acidification, retreating arctic sea ice, sea level rise, high-tide flooding, coastal erosion, higher storm surge, and heavier precipitation events threaten our oceans and coasts. These effects are projected to continue, putting ocean and marine species at risk, decreasing the productivity of certain fisheries, and threatening communities that rely on marine ecosystems for livelihoods and recreation, with particular impacts on fishing communities in Hawai‘i and the U.S.-Affiliated Pacific Islands, the U.S. Caribbean, and the Gulf of Mexico. Lasting damage to coastal property and infrastructure driven by sea level rise and storm surge is expected to lead to financial losses for individuals, businesses, and communities, with the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts facing above-average risks. Impacts on coastal energy and transportation infrastructure driven by sea level rise and storm surge have the potential for cascading costs and disruptions across the country. Even if significant emissions reductions occur, many of the effects from sea level rise over this centuryand particularly through mid-centuryare already locked in due to historical emissions, and many communities are already dealing with the consequences. Actions to plan for and adapt to more frequent, widespread, and severe coastal flooding, such as shoreline protection and conservation of coastal ecosystems, would decrease direct losses and cascading impacts on other sectors and parts of the country. More than half of the damages to coastal property are estimated to be avoidable through well-timed adaptation measures. Substantial and sustained reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions would also significantly reduce projected risks to fisheries and communities that rely on them.
12. Tourism and Recreation
Outdoor recreation, tourist economies, and quality of life are reliant on benefits provided by our natural environment that will be degraded by the impacts of climate change in many ways.
Climate change poses risks to seasonal and outdoor economies in communities across the United States, including impacts on economies centered around coral reef-based recreation, winter recreation, and inland water-based recreation. In turn, this affects the well-being of the people who make their living supporting these economies, including rural, coastal, and Indigenous communities. Projected increases in wildfire smoke events are expected to impair outdoor recreational activities and visibility in wilderness areas. Declines in snow and ice cover caused by warmer winter temperatures are expected to negatively impact the winter recreation industry in the Northwest, Northern Great Plains, and the Northeast. Some fish, birds, and mammals are expected to shift where they live as a result of climate change, with implications for hunting, fishing, and other wildlife-related activities. These and other climate-related impacts are expected to result in decreased tourism revenue in some places and, for some communities, loss of identity. While some new opportunities may emerge from these ecosystem changes, cultural identities and economic and recreational opportunities based around historical use of and interaction with species or natural resources in many areas are at risk. Proactive management strategies, such as the use of projected stream temperatures to set priorities for fish conservation, can help reduce disruptions to tourist economies and recreation.
A Guide to Building Momentum on Climate Solutions in Your Community
NATIONAL LEAGUE OF CITIES
SUSTAINABLE CITIES INSTITUTE
Local Government Commission
Leaders for Livable Communities
building climate leadership
2 Moving Forward Guide
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Welcome Letter 3 What You Need to Know 4 What You Need to Do 6 Mitigation Matters: Steps and Resources 8 Resilience Matters: Steps and Resources 12 Civic Engagement Matters: Steps and Resources 16 Community Engagement 21
This guide is brought to you by the Local Government Commission, National League of Cities, Urban Sustainability Directors Network, and ecoAmerica. We’d like to thank our partners and advisors for their contributions to this guide.
American Association for the Advancement of Science Climate Resolve
Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative
Institute for Sustainable Communities
Utah Clean Energy ecoAmerica
Daniel Barry Bob Perkowitz
Barry, Daniel and Perkowitz, Robert
Moving Forward: A Guide to Building Momentum on Climate Solutions ecoAmerica Washington, D.C.
Cover: Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski at the Path to Positive Utah launch. Photo Courtesy of Love Communications
© 2018 ecoAmerica. The contents of this report may be shared and used under a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commericial No Derivatives 4.0 International License.
WELCOME CIVIC LEADERS
No one ever ran for city council, county commissioner, or mayor to solve climate change, but its challenges are now present in our communities — along with opportunities to solve them.
Meaningful local climate solutions are within reach. This guide will provide you with the ideas and resources to act. By embedding local solutions
in your planning and management activities, you can achieve financial benefits with little or no incremental costs. Reinvesting savings in additional climate action steps can help build the momentum further. Addressing climate change at the local level provides many benefits, including:
• Creating healthier communities for all residents
• Protecting vulnerable residents and communities
• Saving money by cutting waste and promoting local renewables • Spurring economic vitality and business investments
• Building property values and improving public safety
• Restoring natural assets that can protect from climate impacts
This guide is for civic leaders in smaller and mid-size communities that want to lead on climate and sustainability but may lack full-time sustainability staff. We are teaming up to provide you with these resources, including guidance on how to best engage your residents using clear, positive, inclusive and relevant messages.
This is just the start. Sign up for the monthly newsletter at PathToPositive.org to get fresh ideas and resources regularly, including webinars and more detailed guides. And please share your thoughts and ideas with any of us so we can improve these resources.
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Brooks Rainwater Director,
Center for City Solutions National League of Cities
Institute for Sustainable Communities
Kate Meis Executive Director Local Government Commission
Jonathan Parfrey Executive Director Climate Resolve
Managing Director Urban Sustainability Directors Network
Sarah Wright Executive Director Utah Clean Energy
Bob Perkowitz President ecoAmerica
Hon. Jon Dickert
President & CEO
Great Lakes and
St. Lawrence Cities Initiative
4 Moving Forward Guide
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Despite lingering disagreement about the causes of climate change, its impacts have reached cities and towns across America. That is why thousands of local leaders have already started working to cut energy use, use more renewables, improve transportation systems, reduce waste, and prepare their communities. Through local climate and sustainability action, cities and towns are creating jobs, adding transportation options, and spurring green energy investments that cut utility
bills, provide energy choices, and increase livability. These actions give healthy and resilient communities a competitive edge in attracting businesses, residents, and workers.
Chances are, your community can already boast about having made some of these positive changes, but more are needed. For solutions to scale up, local leaders also need the active support and participation of residents and stakeholders. Here’s what you need to know:
Climate Change and Communities: Local leaders
are at the forefront of solving problems in their communities — and climate change is no different. Protecting citizen health and safety and building robust communities is a top priority. Beneficial solutions are within reach, so local leaders can act today to boost economic prosperity, improve sustainability and resilience, and move to energy independence.
Climate Justice and Just Transition: Climate change
is a social and ethical issue. The people in our communities who can least afford to absorb the
costs and impacts — the underserved, communities
of color, the elderly, the ill, our children and future generations — will bear the brunt of climate pollution and increasingly frequent and intense impacts. And as the trend towards sustainable practices accelerates, economic practices that support workers’ security and livelihoods are needed to ensure that the benefits of sustainable economies are shared broadly throughout your community.
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The Politics of Climate Change: More and more local leaders have concluded that the risks and impacts of climate change transcend politics. The solutions and the opportunities that they can create for local businesses, economies, and residents are also bipartisan. There is always a place for debate on specific policies and programs, but the costs of inaction are becoming too dire for local leaders
Climate Mitigation for Cleaner Communities: By reducing fossil fuel use, local governments will
save money, cut pollution, and promote healthier communities. Increasing efficiency and renewable power, promoting cleaner local transportation, reducing waste, incorporating sustainable purchasing policies, and restoring the local environment are key steps towards climate mitigation.
Climate Resilience and Restoration for Safer Communities: In recent years there has been a dramatic increase in the frequency and severity of weather-related disasters in every region of America. Mounting evidence indicates that changes to our climate are exacerbating these disasters, bringing new threats to community health and safety. Local leaders are expected to anticipate risks to their communities and put policies and programs in place to reduce those risks.
Local Leadership for Engaged Communities:
Local government accounts for just a fraction of
their community’s total energy use, transportation, purchasing, and waste. Local civic leaders are critical voices in providing solutions, but they need an engaged community to get the work done. Leaders can support and extend local efforts by incorporating positive messages about how progress toward energy and climate solutions makes communities more sustainable, prosperous, healthy, resilient, and safe.
Leaders can support and extend local efforts by incorporating positive messages about how progress toward energy and climate solutions makes communities more sustainable, prosperous, healthy, resilient, and safe.
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WHAT YOU NEED TO DO
As a local elected leader, your job is to solve local problems. As climate change impacts are felt in every city and town, leadership begins by making a statement, advancing solutions, and strengthening your community. The keys to success are executive leadership, an informed and motivated staff, consistent support, and participation from community leaders and institutions.
Make a Commitment: Inspire change by making a public commitment that signals members in your community to get involved. Your declaration on local solutions — featured on your website, social media, and in public comments — will inspire others to support your efforts. Focus on the benefits and cost savings that people in your community will realize with the shift to positive solutions like clean energy and greater efficiency, and how investing today will make your community stronger tomorrow.
Take Stock and Aim for Quick Successes: Local communities have taken thousands of concrete steps to reduce energy use and waste, promote conservation and savings, and provide healthier air and water. Take stock of what you are already doing, catalog your options for action, and increase your momentum with easily achievable and affordable steps that can be put in place quickly. Borrow successful ideas from other communities and seek out policy and program ideas from the resources included in this guide.
Establish Priorities and Make Informed Plans: A good plan need not be complicated or difficult. For smaller communities without the staffing and resources to develop a complex plan, a “getting started” effort as described in this guide is an effective way to motivate progress by revealing current solutions and setting specific goals and priorities.
Engage Your Community: Leaders in important sectors like business, higher education, health care, and faith are already making commitments to lead towards climate solutions. Local government can leverage this growing awareness and action by working with these leaders to broaden and deepen the call to action by engaging their congregants,
clients, customers, patients, members, and employees in supporting solutions.
Embed Solution and Recycle the Savings: Climate and sustainability solutions should be embedded into the ongoing business of local governance — not be a separate project. Initial savings from reducing energy and water use, sustainable purchasing and waste reduction can be used to support next steps. Set up a revolving fund to track savings and strategically reinvest them in additional efficiencies. Prioritizing efficiency and waste reduction will help sustainability efforts and engage your staff in achieving solutions.
Build from Success, and Keep Going: Climate impacts and solutions will continue to unfold over time, so think of these steps as a long-term investment in
your community. As new technologies, policies, and opportunities arise, fit them into your community as you are able. A good climate solutions plan will be adjustable, scalable, and easy to improve upon in order to take advantage of new needs and opportunities.
Climate impacts and solutions will continue to unfold over time, so think of these steps as a long- term investment in your community.
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8 Moving Forward Guide
Government facilities and operations contribute only
a small share of a community’s pollution. Because
the majority comes from non-governmental sectors (homes, businesses, churches, schools, hospitals, etc.), sustainable climate solutions require government leadership that activates broad community participation.
Don’t Let Measurement Hold Back Action: Many communities measure their energy use, transportation systems, waste, and other sources of greenhouse
gas emissions to establish a baseline against which
to set goals and measure reductions. While detailed measurement is helpful, it is not a required first step. Don’t hesitate to implement solutions — conserve energy and water, use renewable energy, provide transportation options, reduce waste, and institute sustainable purchasing practices — right away. The sooner you start, the sooner your community benefits.
Remember, It’s for Your Community: Every community faces unique challenges and opportunities. Hundreds of sustainability solutions are available and virtually every community is already applying them
at some level or scale. A useful first step for local leaders is to identify policies, programs, and practices that are already in place and evaluate whether they can be improved or scaled-up. These solutions can inspire actions that save money, improve health, and strengthen communities now. Here are the broad categories of local solutions:
Be Wise About Saving Energy: Local leaders can achieve cost-saving conservation goals by reducing energy use. Efficiency in buildings and vehicle fleets will gain the most savings.
• Save energy through facilities energy systems commissioning, weatherization, shading, lighting, appliances, and HVAC and water heating equipment upgrades
• Adopt green building standards that improve building design and efficiency for new construction and renovations
• Replace fossil fuel vehicles with hybrid or electric
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Purchase or Produce Local Renewable Energy:
As major buyers of electricity and as opinion leaders, local governments can help nudge utilities towards a more renewable mix of power. Adding renewable energy to the grid is the most significant improvement communities can make to solving climate pollution issues.
• Set goals for purchasing green power from renewable sources — get to 100%
• Recruit leaders in surrounding communities to leverage green purchasing power
• Work with local utilities to make green power widely available to all
• Install solar or wind generation on local facilities and properties where possible
Savings Start at Home (and at Work): The U.S.
Green Building Council estimates that 39% of climate emissions come from building energy use, mostly for heating and cooling. Greening the energy used in local homes and businesses can achieve dramatic cuts in climate pollution.
• Offer businesses and homeowners energy audits, free LED light bulbs, and appliance rebates
• Provide efficiency incentives and challenges to local businesses and homeowners
Most communities need more affordable housing. Invest in housing that saves energy and costs less through efficient construction, lighting and appliances, and by building new units in dense neighborhoods near public transportation and vital services.
• Provide energy efficiency incentives to housing developers and operators
• Strengthen building codes for affordable housing
• Develop a plan for “location efficiency” of affordable housing
Don’t hesitate to implement solutions — conserve energy and water, use renewable energy, provide transportation options, reduce waste,
and institute sustainable purchasing practices — right away. The sooner
you start, the sooner your community benefits.
10 Moving Forward Guide
A healthy natural environment in your community mitigates pollution, increases livability and property values, provides storm defenses, saves energy, and increases resiliency that artificial systems cannot match — and for less money.
Reroute Transportation Opportunities: Advances
in community design, transportation technology,
and shared and active transportation options are improving local transit. Reducing petroleum use and adding active transportation cuts pollution and makes communities healthier.
• Employ Complete Streets design policies locally and regionally
• Promote active transportation modes such as walking and biking
• Prioritize and invest in sustainable public transit options, including electric buses
• Add car sharing, bike sharing, and autonomous vehicle systems
• Promote dense, local development around transit systems
• Add electric vehicle charging facilities in public spaces
Waste Is Waste: Reducing waste throughout the supply chain will result in cost and energy savings and will lessen the impacts from the disposal of materials.
• Cut waste through packaging reduction, reuse and recycling, and composting within municipal operations, local businesses, and households
• Promote double sided copying, reusable water bottles, and recyclable materials
• Publish newsletters, bulletins, and guides online
Smart Purchasing Is Right on the Money: We can do more — and better — with the money we spend. Government purchasing power can leverage best practices that cut pollution, waste, and the use of toxic materials, and promote sustainability while saving money.
• Institute Environmentally Preferable Purchasing policies in government contracts
• Include green purchasing requirements for suppliers and contractors, like reusable or recyclable packaging, less toxic cleaning and office
supplies, and efficient electronics and appliances
• Elevate suppliers’ and contractors’ sustainability commitments and practices
Embed Solutions and Re-Invest Savings: Cost savings from reducing energy use and waste can be dedicated to other sustainability programs.
• Prioritize efficiency, waste reduction, and cost savings government-wide with a goal to reinforce the role all staff play in achieving these solutions
• Track your cost savings and reinvest them in more energy efficiencies
Nature Is Your Ally: A healthy natural environment
in your community mitigates pollution, increases livability and property values, provides storm defenses, saves energy, and increases resiliency that artificial systems cannot match — and for less money.
• Increase the tree canopy for shade, beauty, clean air, storm water control, and habitat
• Repurpose underutilized open parcels for green space, parks, and gardens
• Use plants and landscaping to reduce energy use and control storm water flow
• Capture and use stormwater for irrigation
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SELECTED MITIGATION RESOURCES
The Climate Registry: Local Governments Operation Protocol: Generate data to set greenhouse gas targets to reduce emissions, save money, and report progress.
EPA: EnergyStar Portfolio Manager:
Save money and energy through planning and monitoring building efficiency, featuring efficient products and energy strategies for a range of buildings and facilities.
Urban Sustainability Directors Network: Sustainable Consumption Toolkit: Showcases how to fit
sustainable consumption and where communities can take action on food, housing, and purchasing.
The World Bank: CURB Tool
– Climate Action for Urban Sustainability: Designed to help cities take action on climate by allowing them to map and measure different action plans.
See also: C40 Cities
U.S. Communities Government Purchasing Alliance: Go Green Program: Helps cities identify and purchase certified green products.
NLC’s Sustainable Cities Institute
provides convening opportunities, technical assistance and leadership training for cities to mitigate and adapt to the effects of a changing climate. SCI helps cities implement proven strategies.
Smart Cities for Sustainability (USDN and ISC) is designed for use by sustainability directors to delve more deeply into smart city approaches, technologies, and uses of data to advance their local sustainability goals.
An online version of this guide complete with links is available at PathtoPositive.org.
12 Moving Forward Guide
In more and more communities, what were once potential risks of climate change are becoming real
— with damaging consequences. Communities need to move beyond discussions about blame and seek solutions that will improve local safety, health, and property. It’s time — our changing climate is impacting people, businesses, and our communities.
Primary Risks and Threats: Resilience is the ability to predict, prepare for, and recover from climate impacts when they happen. Climate risks and resilience are different for each community, so local leaders must assess and plan around their unique risk profile. Craft plans to cut the pollution that is damaging our climate while also preparing for the anticipated risks and impacts across three primary risk and impact phenomena:
1. Flooding from sea level rise and intense and frequent precipitation
2. Weathervariabilityandextremes,includingwind, precipitation and drought
3. Temperatureextremessuchasintenseand/or prolonged heat and cold
Who Bears the Brunt: These major climate risk phenomena affect local cities and towns across three primary community systems, resulting in impacts such as those sampled below:
• People and Communities: Impacts to health
and safety; social and psychological harm and disruption; economic or job instability; dislocation and social disruption
• Built Systems: Damage to public and private property and buildings; damage to and disruption of public energy, sanitary, communications, and transportation infrastructure
• Natural Systems: Reduction in air and water quality and availability; loss of food security; species migration; damage to local green spaces, trees and animals; variation and increase in vector diseases and invasive species
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Key Considerations for Planning and Action: Evaluation and planning are critical to local preparations for anticipated climate risks. Develop
a clear understanding of potential risks and how to minimize them to better engage your community. The checklist below draws from NOAA’s U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit and guiding principles from The White House Council on Environmental Quality:
Assess Local Hazards, Vulnerabilities, and Risks:
• Assess likely local impacts using historical records and climate models
• Evaluate the location and condition of critical safety, energy, water, transportation and communications infrastructure
• Apply risk-management methods, tools, and resources to identify options that limit vulnerability and build resilience
Investigate Options, Prioritize, Plan and Revise:
• Assess efficacy, costs, and benefits of risk mitigation and best practices
• Implement plans that prioritize short, medium, and long-term actions
• Incorporate plans into core policies, and programs across all departments of local government, and ask local institutions to do the same
• Evaluate performance and revise plans regularly
Take Action Through Strong Partnerships:
• Prioritize people, places, and infrastructure that are most vulnerable, especially vulnerable communities and the institutions that serve them
• Garner diverse community and institutional support for planning and implementation
• Coordinate plans across multiple sectors
• Refresh plans through regular communications and response integration
Climate risks and resilience are different for each community, so local leaders must assess and plan around their unique risk profile.
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Maximize Mutual and Ecosystem-Based Benefits
• Adopt measures supporting energy, climate and sustainability goals
• Integrate goals for preparedness, resource management, and costs savings
• Improve ecosystem resilience, and protect critical ecosystem services to reduce human and natural vulnerabilities and promote restoration
6 Ways to Prepare People and Restore Communities
Assessing your community’s risk and the range
of available solutions will provide you with the framework for taking action. Every community will require some mix of measures that protect and restore people, places, and nature. Here are some ideas that apply to all communities:
1. Start with People: Assess anticipated climate impacts in your community based on vulnerability levels. Prepare at-risk communities (elderly, youth, underserved, communities of color, and those who are exposed to natural threats) and increase their resiliency. Provide dedicated communications and resources to these affected communities.
2. Understand the Range of Human Impacts:
Climate damage and disruption can have a broad range of human impacts: loss of property and security; reduced mobility; loss of energy, water, and communications services; loss of jobs and resources; illness, injury, social disruption; and psychological stress and anxiety. Build awareness
of the risks and likely impacts and prepare your community to address them — both proactively and in response to climate events. Resilient community systems strengthen people as well as infrastructure.
3. Prepare Comprehensively: Include climate impacts throughout emergency plans and preparation activities, including a broad community-wide emergency notification system. Promote community preparedness through businesses, schools, health care providers, and churches. Identify and activate shelters in extreme weather events. Urge municipal
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employees and concerned residents to enroll in emergency preparedness and response training.
4. Make Nature Your Ally: Green infrastructure can temper weather extremes. Plant climate-resistant shade trees that are resilient in severe weather. Install flood tolerant plants in rain gardens and bioswales to capture stormwater. Use berms, swales and other natural barriers to control water. Limit construction in low-lying areas or wetlands.
5. Plan and Build with Impacts in Mind: Implement zoning and building requirements that account for weather-related risks like wind, water, and heat. Reduce energy and water use and waste. Limit impervious surface area to allow for the absorption of storm water. Consider set-backs to avoid building in flood zones. Elevate critical building systems that are vulnerable to high water events.
6. Beat the Heat: Institute a long-term tree canopy care and restoration plan. Create green, solar, and cool roof programs to mitigate urban heat. Provide shade structures in urban heat islands. Activate cooling centers in public buildings during extreme heat. Provide free public transportation on “bad air” or extreme heat days.
Every community will require some mix of measures that protect and restore people, places, and nature.
SELECTED RESILIENCE RESOURCES U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit:
Tools to help manage climate- related risks and opportunities, and guide in building resilience to extreme events.
CAKE: Climate Resilience Toolkit:
Provides a practical, flexible approach to help communities improve resilience by setting priorities to manage risks.
National Institute of Standards and Technology: Community Resilience: 200 tools to help you take steps to build resilience.
Georgetown Climate Center: Adaptation Clearinghouse: A database and networking site that serves policymakers and others who are working to help communities adapt to climate change.
The Institute for Sustainable Communities’ Regional Resilience Primer shares promising practices about regional climate change adaptation across the U.S.
The American Association for the Advancement of Science project, “What We Know,” is dedicated
to ensuring that the three R’s of climate are communicated to the public: Reality, Risk, and Response.
Alliance of Regional Collaboratives for Climate Adaption (ARCCA): Tools for developing adaption policy, forming regional collaboratives, ICARP clearinghouse, Cal-Adapt, and other maps of risks.
An online version of this guide complete with links is available at PathtoPositive.org.
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CIVIC ENGAGEMENT MATTERS
Effective climate and sustainability solutions depend on robust and purposeful engagement of leaders throughout the community. Public engagement builds awareness and support for solutions across the private sector.
Why Engage the Community?
Public awareness and participation makes for good local public policy. Engaging the entire community on climate solutions magnifies local government action. Citizen and stakeholder participation in developing sustainable policies can be a rewarding process
that leads to gains in the design, participation, and outcomes of local programs. Good engagement is both a process and an outcome — a journey and
Who Is Engaging Their Communities?
Leadership on climate solutions is coming from
all walks of civic life, from elected leaders and governments to businesses, from faith leaders in every religious denomination to physicians and public health officials. This broad-based leadership has little to do with the science or politics of climate change, and everything to do with a growing sense that
the problems are becoming acute and the time for broad and inclusive action has arrived. A hallmark of success occurs when local leaders grasp the urgent need for action and take it upon themselves to lead their community towards solutions. Examples of local leadership initiatives include:
The National League of Cities has taken an assertive stance in promoting resilience among its member communities. Since 2015, NLC has hosted annual Resilient Cities Summits including more than 50 communities, and also convenes a cohort of 7 to 10 communities for a year-long Leadership in Community Resilience program. In addition to advocating for visionary policy perspectives and innovative funding for resiliency, NLC emphasizes the role of inclusive outreach and community engagement in building stronger communities. Prioritizing the needs of vulnerable residents and neighborhoods and involving
those communities in the planning process is central to crafting comprehensive and equitable resilience plans. More importantly, building collaborative relationships with all sectors and communities can ensure that resilience programs grow more effective over time.
Since setting a goal to be the most livable city in America, Evanston has emphasized employee and community engagement as major components of reaching that goal. In addition to launching community partnerships and workforce development programs, Evanston also initiated a training program to educate public employees about the rationale, goals, and elements of the city’s livability program. Each year,
all 800 city employees attend the Evanston Livability Academy, a half-day session designed to elevate
their role in making the community more livable
and sustainable. Led by the city manager and senior staff representing all city departments, the Livability Academy has established partnerships and collaboration across city departments while showing employees how their work supports the community’s quality of life.
Los Angeles, a city many people associate with traffic congestion, air pollution, and waste, has emerged
as a global leader in applying positive solutions to local climate impacts. Launched in 2014, Path to Positive Los Angeles (P2PLA) supports this success by bringing inspired new leaders to the fore and by equipping them to assert and achieve commitments to local solutions. P2PLA fosters supportive connections between local political and community leaders and grows relationships that generate public support for policy work. P2PLA is a vital voice for regional climate solutions with a Leadership Circle of more than 250 prominent local leaders supported by sector and city- wide gatherings. In 2017, Climate Day LA brought 1,200 Angelenos together and featured Mayor Eric Garcetti, youth and civic groups, and national faith leader Jackie DuPont-Walker of the AME Church.
Originally launched in Salt Lake City, Path to Positive Utah quickly gained interest across the state. In SLC, Mayor Jackie Biskupski has shown continuing local
Citizen and stakeholder participation in developing sustainable policies can be a rewarding process that leads to gains in the design, participation, and outcomes of local programs.
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leadership by creating a Clean Energy Implementation Plan which will provide the city with 100% renewable energy by 2032. In a politically conservative state
that faces risks to its communities and economy from climate change, generating broad participation meant learning how to support moderate, respected voices willing to discuss these risks and explore state and local solutions. Launching a strong program hinged on recruiting mainstream leaders from the business, political, faith, and civic sectors who would provide a call to action that resonates in Utah communities.
Sector-based programs like Blessed Tomorrow help local houses of worship integrate climate solutions and strengthen the moral connections between faith and climate. Guided by a diverse coalition of faith leaders, Blessed Tomorrow is committed to creating a positive future for families, communities, and the world by providing resources to reduce pollution, save energy and money, and support leaders and individuals in climate solutions and collective action.
Climate for Health is a national program that brings together leaders and institutions across the health sector committed to advancing climate solutions to protect the health of our patients and communities. Participants work to reduce their own climate impacts in hospitals, clinics, offices, and facilities throughout the country and to inspire their peers to do the same. The program also helps inform the American public about the health risks posed by a changing climate and clarifies the connection between their own health and the health of our environment.
CIVIC ENGAGEMENT BASICS
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Leadership for Community Engagement
Like any leadership goal worth pursuing, good community engagement requires a focused effort that builds core skills and capacity, expands competency and confidence through practice and reflection,
and incorporates learning from experience and new perspectives. What do you do?
Get Comfortable Talking and Leading on
Look at the issues and the solutions from your constituents’ perspectives. Understand your audience and “meet them where they live.” Lead by example
to show how local solutions save money, build a stronger community, and improve people’s lives. Create leadership opportunities so your community can help you provide solutions. How you present your climate leadership matters, so use inspirational messages that resonate. Practice good communications, from broad framing to specific message content. Evaluate and update your materials to focus on local solutions that support people and their values.
Craft a Plan Together and Engage Everyone
Engage the community as deeply as possible through influential community leaders who support your goals. Work with the community to develop specific climate solutions that provide real benefits. Include residents and stakeholders so they can do their part through easy actions. Provide them with specific measures that will get them started. Track progress and showcase victories and benefits so people see themselves as part of the solution and are inspired to do more.
Become a Role Model in Local Climate Solutions
Addressing climate risks and opportunities in your community is similar to leading on other important community issues. As a local leader part of your job is to respond to problems by finding solutions and leading the community towards them. You are in a unique position to mobilize your community. The imperative to lead is on your side, the time is now, and you are not alone.
Engage the community as deeply as possible through influential community leaders who support your goals.
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Learn About Climate Solutions and Their Co-benefits
Get advice and guidance from other local leaders and communities that are also enacting local climate and sustainability solutions. Look to replicate or adopt the work being done by businesses, schools, institutions and leaders within your own community. Learn from as many resources as possible, including from the resources included in this guide.
Approach Local Climate Solutions Like a Campaign
Campaign skills are familiar to most local elected officials and their staff. The perseverance and engagement that make campaigns successful will work as you advocate for support of your local climate and sustainability goals.
• Express a highly visible purpose and goal
• Develop a disciplined message and repeat it often through many platforms
• Garner broad, visible support from community leaders and institutions
• Challenge trusted leaders to involve their communities in the solutions
• Get members of the community to help in little and big ways
• Use local successes and savings, resiliency, and restoration stories to advance goals
Climate impacts and solutions will continue to unfold over time. New policy, technology and social solutions will continue to arise. Learn from success — and failure — and make adjustments. Refresh your solutions plan and engagement program to leverage opportunities. Raise the bar toward achieving higher goals.
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1. Make a Commitment or Declaration: People are more responsive to calls to action from trusted, local leaders. A visible commitment that declares the importance of addressing local climate change risks and opportunities will resonate within the community and will provide them with the signal that these issues are important to them.
2. Engage Government: Make sustainability and resiliency core missions of your government. Identify and assign staff leads across government agencies and departments to serve as the point persons for climate and resiliency work. Facilitate collaboration and communication between these agency staff leads. Elevate the call for solutions on these agencies’ websites and public communications. The leadership you demonstrate will make it easier to ask, or require, local businesses and residents to pitch in.
3. Empower Utilities: The energy sources used to generate power are the most important factor
in reducing climate pollution. Transitioning from fossil fuels (including coal and natural gas) towards renewable sources like solar and wind is essential to reducing climate pollution. Insist on clean sources of power to send a strong signal to utilities to transition away from fossil fuels. With the costs of renewables steadily falling, government, business, and consumer demand for green energy will help make the business case for utilities in transition.
4. Recruit Community Sector Leaders: Chances are you are already working with local elected and civic leaders to address climate change. Get them to publicly support your plans and solutions. Their visible public support will publicize and amplify the work you are doing. Ask these leaders to recruit their colleagues to speak up, and to include climate commitments in communications to their clients, customers, parishioners, members, associates, and constituents. Recruit these leaders as hosts and presenters at community forums and meetings, and to provide testimony at public hearings to promote climate solutions.
Make sustainability and resiliency core missions
of your government. Identify and assign staff leads across government agencies and departments to serve as the point persons for climate and resiliency work. Facilitate collaboration and communication between these agency staff leads.
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5. Get into the Media: “Owned” media (websites, bulletins, newsletters and social media) and “earned” media (newspaper, radio, and television coverage) provide local leaders with numerous pathways to engage the public in your climate work. Share stories that inspire hope and action. Keep it positive by framing the benefits of your local solutions. When “bad news” stories arise, acknowledge the seriousness of the challenges and then pivot to the positive impacts that local government, stakeholders, and residents are making on solutions. For every bad news story, offer three good news stories.
6. Engage Your Residents and Show Them Easy Solutions: Real change will come when ordinary residents participate in climate solutions. Daily, personal choices — about energy purchasing
and conservation, reducing waste, transportation options — are the keystones to accelerating sustainable, pro-climate action. Some of these choices come at a cost, but all of them come
with tangible immediate and long-term benefits. Use engaged leaders to assure your residents
that a positive, sustainable future is within their grasp. Once you have made the case for clean energy, efficiency, equity and healthy choices, it
is critical to point people in the right direction. Provide a menu of easy choices, such as adjusting thermostats and switching to LED lights, purchasing renewable energy, taking public transit or buying a bike, eating seasonally and cutting back on meat. Start by offering easy and cheap solutions (that can save money), and gradually step up the options to include more complex choices that may require more of an investment (but will still save money).
7. Go Beyond Your Borders to Tell Your Neighbors, and the World: Local leaders in America are accomplishing tremendous amounts of good in their communities — in climate solutions, fair and affordable housing, job creation and a host of other vital community issues — by borrowing the
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best policies and practices of their peers. Employ ideas that work in your community and share any improvements that could benefit leaders in other communities. Most importantly, form alliances with leaders in towns and counties in your immediate area. The power of regional action to bolster local solutions, through energy and transit planning, purchasing and contracting agreements, and land use practices, will build momentum and provide tangible solutions across many more communities.
No one ever ran for city council, county commissioner, or mayor to solve climate change, but its challenges are now present in our communities — along with opportunities to solve them.
SELECTED ENGAGEMENT RESOURCES
Path to Positive Communities:
empowers local and regional leaders to maximize the opportunities climate solutions bring to the American people and their communities, and inspire their residents and other leaders to support solutions at local, regional, and national levels.
ecoAmerica builds institutional leadership, public support, and political will for climate solutions in the United States. We help national mainstream organizations elevate their climate leadership, providing them strategy, tools, and resources
to demonstrate visible climate leadership, empower climate literacy, engage all residents, and build collective action and advocacy.
Climate for Health:
is a national initiative led by a diverse network of health leaders from across the health sector representing key health care, public health, clinical, and medical institutions and associations.
is a coalition of diverse religious partners united as faithful stewards of creation. Together, we inspire
our communities to take action today on one of the greatest moral challenges of our era — protecting our shared home.
Institute for Sustainable Communities: Empowering Community Resilience shares ways to reinvent community engagement, build capacity for deeper engagement, and communicate with diverse stakeholders.
An online version of this guide complete with links is available at PathtoPositive.org.
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NATIONAL LEAGUE OF CITIES
SUSTAINABLE CITIES INSTITUTE
Local Government Commission
Leaders for Livable Communities
building climate leadership