Climate Change Impacts

EM—September 2019: In this month's issue, we look at examples of public and private sector responses to the impacts of climate change, which is already affecting decision-making by environmental managers.

by Ali Farnoud

The political aspects of climate change may still be a matter of debate, but cities, states, and businesses are closely monitoring its impacts. When climate change alters precipitation patterns, what will it mean for a city planning its allocating its water resources? Will the present-day 500-year floods happen at a higher frequency, and is the city prepared? How about private businesses? Does the investment risk rise with the sea level? How about operational expenses? With changing climate patterns, how much more fuel would a power plant need to ensure continuity of service during longer and more intense heat waves? Can the current operating schedule support future demands? How much more will a data center pay in cooling costs as the hottest days in each year grow even hotter? These (and others) are all questions that are on the minds of stakeholders at the national, regional, and local levels, and we consider a few of them in this month's issue of EM.

First, Julia Murphy with the City of San Antonio, TX, Office of Sustainability provides a summary of SA Climate Ready, San Antonio's plan for climate adaptation. The city has already prepared multiple plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve energy efficiency. However, the city's projections indicate hotter weather, less annual precipitation, and more frequent flooding. SA Climate Ready is the city's plan to enhance San Antonio's resilience to climate change impacts.

Next, Min Zhang, Mingming Lu, and Yanmei Zhou discuss the efforts by the Chinese government to replace the current refrigerants used in chillers and other appliances with climate-friendly alternatives. A current hot topic around the world, which has also been litigated in the United States for at least the past four years.

Jake Spaulding and Jennifer Kerbs write about the efforts to monitor and predict storm impacts in California to increase Sonoma County's resilience to projected increase in severe winter storms. These effortsinclude a decision support system designed to assist the cities of Northern California with their planning and enable emergency responders to predict the hazards impacting the public. The system collects weather radar data for precipitation estimation and short-term forecasts, couples them with additional surface measurements of precipitation, streamflow, and soil moisture, and uses this data in its forecast modeling system for extreme storms.

Last but not least, Scott Warner describes the impact of climate change on remedial systems to clean up contaminated soil, groundwater, or surface water. Historic design parameters such as groundwater depths, flow directions, and precipitation rates used for remedial system design are rapidly changing due to climate change. The author addresses the need for integrating climate change considerations into the design of effective remedial systems.

Continue reading the full September 2019 issue of EM.