Preparing Communities for the Impacts of Climate Change
The Earth’s climate is rapidly changing. Temperatures are rising and precipitation patterns are changing. We’re seeing more storms, floods, and droughts, and the frequency of intense weather events is increasing. Sea levels are rising more rapidly and storm surges are becoming more severe.
These changes are concerning because they can affect our health, rivers, beaches, and access to food, water, and energy. All of these risks can also lead to significant economic damages if communities are not adequately prepared. For instance, hurricane Sandy caused approximately $65 billion in damages to New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. More frequent droughts are also a cause of more wildfires that are destroying homes in many parts of the country and increasing the costs of fire suppression to federal, state and local governments.
We must take action now to protect public health, the environment and the economy. We have an opportunity to slow the rate of climate change and make it more manageable by cutting emissions of the carbon pollution that contributes to global warming. At the same time, we have an opportunity to anticipate, prepare, and adapt to climate change to protect the things we care about.
EPA is taking action now in three important ways to help states, tribes, and local communities anticipate and prepare for climate change. First, we are working to increase people’s awareness and understanding of how climate change can affect the things they care about and the actions they can take to avoid negative impacts. For example, as part of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, EPA is releasing an online training module to help local government officials take actions to increase their communities’ resilience to a changing climate.
Second, we are providing financial resources to communities to help them identify common sense solutions. In Connecticut, the Bridgeport Regional Planning Authority is using brownfields funds to identify the risks posed by sea level rise to clean up sites and to help avoid redeveloping in harm’s way. Finally, we’re providing communities with the tools and technical assistance they need to make a difference. For example, EPA’s Climate Resiliency Evaluation and Awareness Tool helps drinking water and wastewater system operators understand, assess, and evaluate alternative strategies for delivering services to their communities even as the climate changes.
On a national level, EPA has proposed the Clean Power Plan, which for the first time seeks to cut carbon pollution from existing power plants, the single largest source of carbon pollution in the United States. The proposal, which we will finalize later this year, will protect public health, move the United States toward a cleaner environment and fight climate change while supplying Americans with reliable and affordable power.
Some communities across the nation are already preparing for climate change. We cannot afford to wait, because the longer we do, the harder and more costly it will be to adapt and avoid the negative impacts of climate change. The good news is that everyone can make a big difference in simple ways. There’s a perception that the climate change problem is so huge that the actions we take as individuals can’t make a difference. That’s not the case. In the same way that all of our individual actions added up to cause the climate to change so rapidly, we can all be part of the solution. When we do things like conserve water, buy Energy Star labelled products, and take public transportation we can slow the rate of climate change and help prepare for its impacts.
Working together, we can make a difference to deal with the climate change problem. That’s why EPA is taking action now.
More information on how to slow the rate of climate change and anticipate and prepare for its impacts: http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/
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