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Climate Change Adaptation and Emissions Mitigation

Climate change is one of the most complex issues facing the world today. It involves many dimensions ‒ from science to economics ‒ and is a global problem felt on local scales. The impacts of climate change include warmer temperatures, less predictable weather patterns, and rising sea levels, which threaten the reliable delivery of many services.

There are two responses to climate change, according to the National Climate Assessment:

  1. Emissions Mitigationopens in new window
  2. Climate Change Adaptationopens in new window

Neither climate change adaptation nor emissions mitigation actions alone can prevent significant climate change impacts. Implementation of both, together, at the same time, can significantly reduce risks. Climate change adaptation is essential to reduce the damages from climate change that are already happening and will continue to increase. Emissions mitigation is necessary to reduce the rate and magnitude of climate change.

Climate adaptation is a form of risk managementopens in new window. Climate change adaptation must receive serious consideration, emphasis, and resources required to reduce vulnerabilities while we face the unavoidable consequences of climate change today and in the future. Climate change adaptation uses both the observed and expected changes in climate to inform decisions. This involves leveraging:

  • forward-looking climate information and plausible scenarios,
  • understanding risk tolerance of the owner and occupant and
  • reliance on the professional judgement of licensed design professionals – architects and engineers who protect the health, safety, and welfare of the public.

Climate change adaptation options for the built environment include:

  • Protect
  • Accommodate
  • Retreat
  • Avoid

There are numerous strategies for climate change adaptation. Fundamentally projects need to identify project climate protection levels (CPLs) - outcome-focused, performance-based criteria to inform the POR and other project criteria/specifications. Climate change adaptation scope must focus on those project elements that have an intended service life over 30 years, are costly and disruptive to mission if damaged or impaired- specifically the building enclosure and the site development. Parts of the project may be designed for reliable performance at the end of its useful life. Other parts may be designed in tandem with monitoring methods and adapt as the climate changes.

What, How, When

Define what, how and when for each climate protection level (CPL) for the following outcomes:

  • Thermal Comfort (cooling and the ability to handle temperature extremes for both the building and the site/landscape),
  • Durable Construction (structural stability above grade, weatherproofing, detailing, materials), and
  • Managing Water (shortage and inundation).
Monitor and Evaluate

Implementation of climate protection levels must be accompanied by methods to monitor and evaluate as climatic conditions change. These efforts ideally include proposed decadal timing to adapt the enclosure or the site to reduce or manage loads or alter asset management plans.

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