Adaptation

The climate is already changing, in some areas more than others. It's going to keep changing over the next century, even if humanity is successful in keeping the overall magnitude of climate change to below truly dangerous levels at the global scale. Governments can play a key role in dealing with the changes civilization can no longer prevent by providing funding and resources to help people and businesses adapt.

KBEff Global warming will bring profound changes to the globe as a whole — but the particular types and scales of these impacts will be profoundly affected by local conditions. Climate change won't just have general global effects — over time it will create specific impacts within your very own neighborhood. Because the changes people will face vary from place to place, local governments (city or regional) will be best equipped to address these problems — one-size-fits-all solutions won't work. National governments that signed and ratified the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (see Chapter 11) agreed to undertake adaptation planning. Several countries, such as the Dominican Republic, Cuba, and others in the Caribbean, are also undertaking regional planning. But fundamentally, although climate change is happening globally, people need to react locally.

Miami-Dade County in Florida is a leading example of what local governments can do. Not only is the county committed to reducing emissions, it's trying to make sure that people are prepared for the climate changes predicted, including sea level rise, salt-contaminated drinking water, and erosion. Miami-Dade has formed a Climate Change Advisory Task Force to make recommendations. As one of a handful of local governments in the United States already worrying about this problem, Miami-Dade is serving as a pilot project for Climate Resilient Communities, led by the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI). (See the sidebar "Local leadership," in this chapter, for more about the ICLEI.)

One tragic example of a failure to adapt is New Orleans. In light of global warming, the city council had just realized that they needed to take action to protect the city from extreme weather events. In the summer of 2005, the Mayor spoke out as a signatory to the Mayors' Climate Protection Agreement, which endorsed the Kyoto Protocol. (See the section, "Success Stories," later in this chapter, for more about this agreement.) He pointed out that New Orleans was one of the most vulnerable cities in the United States to severe weather events, and would be even more vulnerable given the trends of global warming. The city realized that they needed to repair the dikes and levees, and beef up emergency planning, but Katrina hit before they could make the changes.

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