Energy and Global Climate Change in New England
Adaptation is an adjustment in natural or human systems to a new or changing environment that moderates negative effects or exploits beneficial opportunities. In the context of climate change, adaptation refers to actions taken to help communities and ecosystems cope with changing climate conditions. The goal of adaptation is increase our ability to anticipate, prepare for, respond to, and recover from the impacts of climate change.
Here in New England, government at all levels in the region: federal, state, local and interstate, along with environmental groups and research scientists have begun to discuss, prepare and plan for climate change impacts. State and local climate adaptation plans look at the particular climate change vulnerabilities that represent threats in New England. These include: changing precipitation patterns leading to intense rainfall events and flooding, as well as extended periods of drought; sea level rise, storm surges, and erosion; rising temperatures; changes in the timing of seasons; impacts on ecosystems and habitat for fish and wildlife, forests, agriculture, and human health; threats to the built infrastructure such as homes and buildings; schools and hospitals; roads, culverts, bridges and dams; energy infrastructure; port, rail, and airport facilities; and drinking water facilities and waste water treatment plants.
Understanding and assessing the risks posed by climate change is being done by incorporating consideration of the science of climate change and of the potential climate impacts and vulnerabilities that may be felt locally. These assessments are then folded into planning activities such as comprehensive community planning, land use and zoning decisions, and in project development reviews. Traditional planning that begins to take into account climate change will limit risks, minimize damage and ultimately reduce costs.
All of the New England states, federal agencies and coastal communities and organizations have begun to do adaptation work. The New England governors and the premiers of the five eastern Canadian provinces, acting cooperatively, have called on states and provinces to work together on adaptation planning to anticipate climate change and build resiliency.
EPA has conducted scientific research, prepared guidance materials, and has brought together New England federal and state agencies to consider regional vulnerabilities and undertake adaptation planning. The Agency has funded, supported and is participating in a number of research studies, interstate and multi-agency workgroups, created programs and promoted individual community adaptation projects in the region. Federal agencies, regional organizations and states are meeting to develop an adaptation framework for New England. On October 14, 2010, the Climate Change Adaptation Task Force, co-chaired by the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), released an interagency report (PDF) (72 pp, 1 MB, about PDF) outlining recommendations to the President for how Federal Agency policies and programs can better prepare the United States to respond to the impacts of climate change. On March 4, 2011, CEQ issued a set of implementing instructions for Federal Agency Adaptation Planning informing agencies on how to integrate climate change adaptation into their planning, operations, policies, and programs. In June 2011, EPA issued a policy statement on climate change adaptation, and, like other federal agencies, is in the process of developing its adaptation plan.
Federal agencies, including EPA's national and regional offices, are participating in the development of a National Climate Assessment report to be published in 2013. The Global Change Research Act of 1990 requires a report to the President and the Congress every four years that integrates, evaluates, and interprets the findings of the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP); analyzes the effects of global change on the natural environment, agriculture, energy production and use, land and water resources, transportation, human health and welfare, human social systems, and biological diversity; and analyzes current trends in global change, both human-induced and natural, and projects major trends for the subsequent 25 to 100 years.