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Climate Change Hero

Climate Change Blog

  • 17
  • January
  • 2017


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GAO Recommends Incorporating Forward-Looking Climate Information into Design Standards and Building Codes

On January 3, 2017, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (“GAO”) released a report concluding that better coordination among — and the sharing of forward-looking climate information between — federal agencies could result in significant government cost savings. Forward-looking climate information includes weather models constructed using anticipated trends in climate change and other plausible projections of what might happen under a given set of assumptions, such as projected rainfall rates. The GAO observed that, over the last decade, “the federal government has incurred direct costs of over $320 billion due to extreme weather events,” including costs related to repairs of federal infrastructure. These costs may continue to rise as the climate changes, with extreme weather events becoming more frequent. The GAO concluded that — as the owner, operator, and insurer of property vulnerable to climate impacts — the federal government stands to benefit from the incorporation of forward-looking climate information into building codes, standards, and certifications. However, design standards and building codes generally use historical climate observations, and standards-setting organizations have identified various challenges to using forward-looking climate information. The GAO report finds that improving interagency coordination and providing the best available forward-looking climate information to standards-setting entities could help address many of these challenges.

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  • 06
  • December
  • 2016


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85-Year Climate Forecasts Prompt Species Listing Under the Endangered Species Act

In late October, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the National Marine Fisheries Service’s (NOAA Fisheries) decision to list the Beringia distinct population segment (DPS) of the Bearded Seal as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).1 This listing decision was controversial because the Beringia DPS is not facing any imminent or serious threat or reduction to its population. Indeed, NOAA Fisheries acknowledged that the Beringia DPS currently has a large, widely distributed, and genetically diverse population. Nevertheless, NOAA Fisheries concluded that the Beringia DPS was threatened, based primarily on climate change models that predict the loss of sea ice by the year 2095 in ways that would likely affect the seal’s significant life functions and endanger the seal. This is the first time NOAA Fisheries has looked so far into the future to form a basis to list a species as threatened that is currently faring well.

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Eric Groten Partner

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