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Adapting To Climate Change

Sabin Center for Climate Change

The events of the last couple of weeks provide a clear demonstration of the very real effects of climate change.  While there still may be a small minority of people who dispute whether climate change is caused, or at least exacerbated by human activity, even the majority of those people know that, however it may be caused, climate change is real.  Unfortunately, we must also acknowledge that while we can and should take steps to reduce our carbon footprint, to minimize and hopefully someday reverse the effects of climate change, even under the most optimistic scenario, any such effort will take several decades to accomplish.

Therefore, on a global, nationwide and local scale, we must devote significant time and energy to identify and implement steps to adapt to our new reality.  There are several steps we can take, many of which were identified in the stimulus package adopted by Congress back in 2009. Unfortunately many such recommendations were forgotten, ignored or because a victims of political in-fighting.

Below I list a few that we should revisit as soon as possible.

  1. Develop and utilize alternative energy sources to create small, independent power grids.  In addition to providing opportunities to reduce our carbon footprint, alternative energy sources such as solar, wind and hydro can and should be developed in a manner to provide for small, independent power grids that can be maintained and repaired in a manner to minimize disruption of power service or facilitate the quicker and more efficient repair of these smaller grids to hasten recovery forum weather events, improve communication and potentially save and enhance lives.
  2. Improve rail service.  We all saw the pictures and heard the stories about the problems with the evacuations from Texas and Florida the during recent storm events.  People were stranded on the road, there were gas shortages, and airports were overwhelmed with people trying to leave the area.  However, what we did not hear was an explanation as why wasn’t rail available to assist in these evacuations.  If we had a reasonable and efficient rail service, including high speed rail envisioned by the stimulus package, large numbers of people could have been efficiently evacuated without nearly the strain on fuel, resources, and highway infrastructure.  This could have resulted in more fuel available for emergency vehicles, as well as less congestion on the road for those vehicles to access areas in need of service.
  3. Rethinking of where and how we locate, develop and build/rebuild infrastructure, homes and businesses.  This may be the most important going forward.  How many times must we see homes destroyed on the gulf coast or along the Atlantic seaboard before we rethink the way in which we locate development.  Mass development in flood plains, the limits of which will likely be increasing as ocean temperatures rise, must be avoided.  Preservation of wetlands, especially those that can buffer developments from waterways, must be considered so floodwaters can be absorbed before they devastate areas.  The design of new structures and materials used in construction should be such that they can withstand heavy wind and flooding impact.

These are just a few items.  There are many other steps we can take to address and adapt to the impacts of climate change.

I encourage you to reply to this blog to add to this dialog to identify steps to address this situation.  And a final note, so as not to seem so dire in this blog, I do note that the development of the necessary infrastructure and construction methods to address climate change will create jobs and new industries as we work together to address this important issue.


John C. Cappello is a partner practicing Land Use/Environmental and Municipal Law. He can be reached by phone at 866-303-9595 toll free or 845-764-9656 and by email.  John also concentrates on solar and green initiatives.

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