Wall Street Journal Mar 19, 2014
Fighting Climate Change, and Living With It Too
By AMY HARDER
The Obama administration is launching a new effort to highlight a climate change policy that usually doesn't get much attention: adaptation.
The administration Wednesday is unveiling a new website, climate.data.gov, and a series of other related initiatives, to coincide with an event the White House is hosting to highlight efforts to help the country become more prepared for and resilient toward climate change.
Climate adaptation-the notion that we need to find ways to adjust to climate changes-is another side to climate policy. It gets less attention than the more controversial mitigation side, finding ways to cut greenhouse gas emissions. The adaptation approach is gaining ground, especially in light of extreme-weather events.
But the issue can be tricky. While advocates and experts in the climate community say adaptation and mitigation measures are complementary and work in tandem, the two approaches can be seen as competing for precious resources and attention, so those who want both are careful not to pit them against one another.
In some cases adaptation policies are not linked to climate change. For example, in legislation to maintain the nation's waterways, Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman Barbara Boxer (D., Calif.), inserted a title on extreme weather, but she was careful to avoid using the words "climate change." That bill easily passed the Senate, but it must still be reconciled with a House-passed measure.
In the event Wednesday, senior administration officials say they are seeking to implement policies in tandem that both help the country adapt to climate change and also mitigate it by cutting carbon emissions. Examples of climate adaptation measures include stricter building code requirements so that infrastructure can stand up to more extreme weather, and the construction of structures that can withstand sea-level rise and separate buildings from potential flooding.
"While no single weather event can be attributed to climate change, we know that our changing climate is making many kinds of extreme events more frequent and more severe," write John Podesta and John Holdren, two senior advisers to President Barack Obama, in a blog post on the White House website. "Rising seas threaten our coastlines. Dry regions are at higher risk of destructive wildfires. Heat waves impact health and agriculture. Heavier downpours can lead to damaging floods." Mr. Podesta is counselor to Mr. Obama and Mr. Holdren is director of the White House Office of Science and Technology. They say that in 2012 alone, extreme-weather events caused more than $110 billion in damages and claimed more than 300 lives.
The website, which will initially focus on coastal flooding and sea-level rise, will include data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, U.S. Geological Survey, Defense Department and other federal agencies. The administration has also secured commitments from private companies, including Google Inc. and Intel Corp.INTC +1.35%, on new corporate initiatives aimed at providing more and better data related to preparing for climate change.