International Panel Highlights “Climate Resilient Cities,” as Communities Mobilize for Changing Weather Patterns

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“In an increasingly urbanized world, global sustainability in the context of a changing climate will depend on achieving sustainable and climate resilient cities,” the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says today (28 March 2012).  Cities are increasingly experiencing the disruptive and costly impacts of changes in the frequency and/or severity of weather extremes.  Responding to the trends, city officials are engaging their citizens in efforts to build more resilient, better prepared and more sustainable communities. On Saturday the City of Tucson, Arizona, is bringing its citizens together to discuss the challenges climate change poses the city and the opportunities to respond.  At the event, WWF will launch its Earth Hour City Challenge to encourage cities across the country to similarly engage their citizens around climate impacts and preparedness.

The report released today, Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation (SREX), says that more and more cities are preparing for the impacts of more extreme weather, and emphasizes the importance of engaging citizens and others outside of government in those efforts.  “Such approaches build on local needs and priorities, knowledge, and social structures and are increasingly being used in relation to climate change adaptation,” the report says.  See the video below from the IPCC summarizing the report's findings.

The implications of changing weather patterns for U.S. cities have been vividly illustrated over the last year, with impacts ranging from streets, homes and businesses flooded by extreme rains in the northeast; to millions of people in Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Louisiana enduring oppressive heat during their hottest summer on record.  William K. Reilly, Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (1989-1992) under President George H.W. Bush, said in November that "the degree to which… cities are planned for long-term sustainability in the face of now-certain climate change may affect their very survival." (see Former EPA Administrator William K. Reilly: On Climate Change, Cities May "Save Us From the Ideological Gridlock in Washington,”  WWF Climate Blog, 11 November 2011.) 

City of Tucson to Hold “The Power to Prepare” Summit on Saturday

Tucson, Arizona, is both an example of how cities are being affected by changing weather patterns; and how communities are preparing with their citizens for the future.  Last year, Tucson experienced its 2nd driest January-June period and seventy 100+ degree days; yet it also experienced flash flooding on 15 September from the 5th wettest day of all time for the city.  Meanwhile, above normal temperatures and dry conditions have dominated the Colorado River Basin for more than a decade.  Lake Mead, fed by the river and a primary source of Tucson’s water, is only 56% full.  The longer-term outlook is not encouraging, as many studies indicate that runoff to the Colorado River system is likely to decline as climate continues to change; furthermore, evaporation from Lake Mead will increase as temperatures rise.

In preparation for this changing future, Tucson’s Office of Conservation and Sustainable Development, in collaboration with the University of Arizona recently completed a report addressing climate impacts on the City of Tucson. On Saturday (31 March 2012), city officials will convene its citizens to discuss the report in a “Power to Prepare Tucson” Summit (see one-pager [PDF]). About 200 participants representing a cross-section of the city will participate in what the city calls “a unique opportunity to learn how climate change may impact you and your community, while collaborating on priorities and solutions for addressing these vulnerabilities.”  The forum will use an innovative approach to community engagement developed by AmericaSpeaks  (see see video).

"As an Arizonan and former Governor, I’m proud to see the City of Tucson take up the challenge to prepare for these serious changes and work with the public on solutions,"says former Arizona Governor, Bruce Babbitt, in an op-ed piece published in The Arizona Daily Star.   "These are big challenges, but they are ones we can overcome. But we must take these new threats seriously. The first step is to look the problem square in the eye, rather than bury our heads in the sand; the second is to prepare for the impacts (see his full op-ed, Tucson Equipped to Offer Solutions in an Era of Extremes, 29 March 2012).
 
See Babbitt in the video below talking about the threat climate change poses for the region and the positive steps the city is taking.

Bruce Babbitt on Earth Hour City Challenge from WWF-US on Vimeo.

See also Bruce Babbitt's op-ed in The Arizona Daily Star, Tucson Equipped to Offer Solutions in an Era of Extremes, 29 March 2012.

WWF to Launch Earth Hour City Challenge

Also in Tucson on Saturday, WWF will launch the multi-year Earth Hour City Challenge, an initiative encouraging other cities to hold public events like the one in Tucson to discuss climate impacts, vulnerability and preparedness. The challenge is a competition among cities to prepare for increasingly extreme weather while taking steps to shift towards a 100% renewable energy future.

Participating cities that implement the most ambitious actions and engage their citizens will receive public recognition for their leadership and be eligible to win grants. The Earth Hour City Challenge Web site includes an interactive map which helps visitors sent a letter to their city officials expressing concerns about the impacts of changing weather patterns on their city and calling on them to improve climate preparedness and to take on the Earth Hour City Challenge. 

Online Resources

Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation (SREX). By the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 2012.

WWF Climate Blog:

City of Tucson, Office of Conservation and Sustainable Development

AmericaSpeaks:  See especially this video about the process used by AmericaSpeaks

Tucson Equipped to Offer Solutions in an Era of Extremes.  By former Arizona Governor Bruce Babbitt in The Arizona Daily Star, 29 March 2012.

 

WWF Earth Hour City Challenge: EarthHourCities.org

Keystone Center “Climate Conversations

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