5A.5 Integrating and Mainstreaming Adaptation Planning: Seattle's Climate Impacts Planning Tool

Tuesday, 19 July 2011: 2:30 PM
Salon A (Asheville Renaissance)
Alexander (Sascha) Petersen, Adaptation International, Austin, TX; and W. S. Reeder

The need to plan for a resilient future is becoming more apparent as communities face increasing climate risk and more extreme or frequent natural hazards. Globally, and throughout the United States, climate change has already resulted in increases in air and water temperatures, more frequent and intense precipitation events, sea level rise, ocean acidification, and ecological changes (USGCRP, 2009). Each of these direct impacts can lead to increases in secondary impacts. For example, sea level rise is likely to increase salt water intrusion into estuaries and coastal aquifers, increase erosion, extend the reach of coastal flooding and storm surge events, and negatively impact stormwater management and wastewater treatment in coastal communities. Key planning and infrastructure decisions that enhance (or reduce) adaptive capacity in communities are often made at the local level. Yet, local decision makers frequently do not have the resources to know how to best incorporate climate impact information into their planning processes. A recent report on the Lessons Learned on Local Climate Adaptation from the Urban Leaders Adaptation Initiative found that: “Local governments often already have the necessary skills, expertise, and experiences to manage climate impacts and increase resilience (water conservation, flood control, urban forestry, green roofs, etc.), but what they may need is additional information and technical assistance on understanding, applying, and incorporating new information into practice to improve planning and preparedness.” (Center for Clean Air Policy, 2011, pg 4) Communities are beginning to take action and develop the decision support tools necessary to bridge this gap between climate science and local action. This presentation will focus on an effort the City of Seattle has made to mainstream adaptation into City operations through the development of a Climate Impacts Planning Tool. The tool is designed to provide capital improvement project managers with information and guidance on the climate impacts most relevant to his/her projects. Focusing on extreme events, temperature, precipitation, and sea level rise, the tool filters the most recent regional and local climate science information by project type, location, lifespan, and risk-tolerance. It then displays the range of potential climate impacts, highlights potential projects concerns, and suggests general adaptation strategies. This type of approach represents a second generation decision support tool that provides climate science information in a user-friendly manner and makes “asking the climate question” a seamless part of project planning. It could easily be replicated by other communities and will help decision makers increase community resilience by considering climate risks and mainstreaming adaptation planning into daily operations.

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