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In an address that began with the taking off of his suit jacket and rolling up his sleeves, the President gave a speech at Georgetown University announcing his Administration’s new Climate Action Plan.   


According to the President, “While no single step can reverse the effects of climate change, we have a moral obligation to future generations to leave them a planet that is not polluted and damaged. Through steady, responsible action to cut carbon pollution, we can protect our children’s health and begin to slow the effects of climate change so that we leave behind a cleaner, more stable environment.”

The President’s speech last almost an hour and laid out an agenda that focuses on Executive branch actions to combat climate change.  The plan does not require any action from Congress and will rely on existing executive authority.   


Here are some of the highlights from the new plan.

  • Directs EPA to work closely with states, industry and other stakeholder to establish carbon pollution standards for both new and existing power plants;


  • Makes up to $8 billion in loan guarantee authority available for a wide array of advanced fossil energy and efficiency projects to support investments in innovative technologies;


  • Directs DOI to permit enough renewables project—like wind and solar – on public lands by 2020 to power more than 6 million homes;


  • Designates the first-ever hydropower project for priority permitting;


  • Sets a new goal to install 100 megawatts of renewables on federally assisted housing by 2020; while maintaining the commitment to deploy renewables on military installations;


  • Expands the President’s Better Building Challenge, focusing on helping commercial, industrial, and multi-family buildings cut waste and become at least 20 percent more energy efficient by 2020;


  • Sets a goal to reduce carbon pollution by at least 3 billion metric tons cumulatively by 2030 – more than half of the annual carbon pollution from the U.S. energy sector – through efficiency standards set over the course of the Administration for appliances and federal buildings;


  • Commits to partnering with industry and stakeholders to develop fuel economy standards for heavy-duty vehicles to save families money at the pump and further reduce reliance on foreign oil and fuel consumption post-2018;


  • Leverages new opportunities to reduce pollution of highly-potent greenhouse gases known as hydrofluorocarbons;


  • Directs agencies to develop a comprehensive methane strategy;


  • Commits to protect our forests and critical landscapes.


  • Directs agencies to support local climate-resilient investment by removing barriers or counterproductive policies and modernizing programs;


  • Eestablishes a short-term task force of state, local, and tribal officials to advise on key actions the Federal government can take to help strengthen communities on the ground;


  • Pilots innovative strategies in the Hurricane Sandy-affected region to strengthen communities against future extreme weather and other climate impacts;


  • Building on a new, consistent flood risk reduction standard established for the Sandy-affected region, agencies will update flood-risk reduction standards for all federally funded projects;


  • Launches an effort to create sustainable and resilient hospitals in the face of climate change through a public-private partnership with the healthcare industry;


  • Maintains agricultural productivity by delivering tailored, science-based knowledge to farmers, ranchers, and landowners;


  • Helps communities prepare for drought and wildfire by launching a National Drought Resilience Partnership and by expanding and prioritizing forest- and rangeland- restoration efforts to make areas less vulnerable to catastrophic fire; and


  • Provides climate preparedness tools and information needed by state, local, and private-sector leaders through a centralized “toolkit” and a new Climate Data Initiative.


  • Lead International Efforts to Address Global Climate Change


Additional information on the Adminstration's Plan can be found by visiting: http://www.whitehouse.gov/share/climate-action-plan


The White House May 6 released the third National Climate Change Assessment (NCA) documenting the impact climate change has on the United States. The current report is a key component of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan. The President’s Climate Action Plan is the Obama Administration’s strategic initiative to cut carbon pollution; prepare the US for the impacts of climate change; and lead international efforts to combat global climate change.


The NCA states that climate change is having wide ranging environmental impacts on all regions of the United States.  The report also states that climate change will have impacts on key sectors of society and the US economy.  The effects of climate change, documented by the NCA include heat waves, storm surges and extreme precipitation in the Northeast; increased risk of droughts and wild fires in the Southwest; and receding summer sea ice and shrinking glaciers off of the coast of Alaska.  The report also states that climate change’s impact on health and the economy include decreased air quality and decreased agricultural output.  The NCA states that adapting strategies that encourage conservation and reducing greenhouse gas emissions can mitigate the effects of climate change and increase community resiliency.


The NCA is a requirement of the Global Change Research Act of 1990 (GCRA).  The GCRA requires a report to the President and Congress every four years.  The first NCA was released in 2000 and the second was released in 2009.  The federal government is responsible for producing these reports through the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP), a collaboration of 13 federal agencies and departments, and must be approved by the National Climate Assessment and Development Advisory Committee (NCADAC).  NCADAC is a 60-person U.S. Federal Advisory Committee which oversees the development of the NCA.  NCADAC was established in 2010 and is supported through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).


To learn more about the National Climate Change Assessment and to read the full report, visit www.globalchange.gov


ASCE's Committee on Adapting to A Changing Climate (CACC) recently released a white paper titled Adapting Infrastructure and Civil Engineering Practice to a Changing Climate. The committee, comprised of more than a dozen leading engineers, spent two years compiling science data and formulating recommendations for civil engineers to recognize and adapt infrastructure to the threats of climate change.

The paper identifies two major challenges of climate change to the engineering practice: uncertainty of climate data at regional scales and shifting the current practice of relying on historic data to utilizing predicted conditions-known as "nonstationary." To address the uncertainty of climate models, the authors suggest increased research and science across disciplines to better understand possible scenarios and develop better regional models. The paper suggests that where data gaps or uncertainty exists, engineers should adopt low-regret adaptive approaches.

ASCE policy statement on the Impacts of Climate Change.

Submitted by:

Kurt Corey, P.E.

Director of Public Works

City of Eugene