Thursday and Friday, December 6 and 7, 2012, marks the start of the 4th. Annual Southeast Florida Regional Climate Leadership Summit. This year’s summit, located at the Jupiter Beach Resort, is being hosted by the Palm Beach County Board of Commissioners on behalf of a four county collaboration known as the Compact which includes Monroe, Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach County which has shifted location of the summit between the counties to ensure fair distribution of access for their constituents.
Located last year, 2011 in Monroe County in Key Largo, Miami-Dade County, Miami in 2010 and Broward County and Fort Lauderdale in 2009, it makes sense that it would be in Palm Beach County this year 2012. Broward County will host the 2013 Summit.
The agenda for the day included a workshop, “Visualization & Decision Support Tools for Local Climate Change Adaptation: The State of the Art”. Presenters included J. Greg Dobson, U. of N. Carolina, Heather Holsinger, Federal Highway Administration, Sandy Eslinger, NOAA, Sam Merrill, U. of S. Maine and Spencer Reeder, Cascadia Consulting Group moderated by Dr. Jennifer Jurado of Broward County.
The workshop demonstrated and discussed the latest in modeling and other tools to assess and communicate climate risk, supporting sustainable planning initiatives and to aid decision makers with the speakers presenting from their particular focus. From 3-D modeling to a critical analysis of risk, it is clear that there is a great deal of focus on these topical topics.
J. Greg Dobson presented 3-D modeling as an important tool for projecting possible scenarios due to climate change and sea level rise both in terms of scale and time, defined by one of the participants as the “fourth dimension”.
INVEST is the Federal Highway Administration’s response to create a Sustainable Highway System attempting to seek balanced solutions. www.Sustainable highways.dot.gov
INVEST stands for – Infrastructure, Voluntary, Evaluation, Sustainability Tool. The beta test was released October 2010 and version 1 was released October 2012 that includes the capability to self-score a project with the award of platinum as the highest level.
“Mass transit or always another road?” where are the bicycles and more; probing questions posed by Dr. John Van Leer as a member of the audience in regards to greenhouse gas emissions and sea level rise seeming to be counterproductive.
Environmental Finance Center Network, EFCN, www.epa.gov/efinpage , Sam Merrill discussed social impact, politics and the need to transition into action mode which is sometimes difficult. Options are do nothing, fortify assets, accommodate higher water levels or relocate assets. COAST is a tool he developed to evaluate costs and benefits which uses real numbers not projected on real events engaging stakeholders to solve their own local issues and to clearly understand the effectiveness of efforts in relation to the cost of the investment such beach re-nourishment, dunes, revetment, geotubes, sea walls, jetties, floodwalls, hardening 1st. floor, emergency located on the 2nd. floor, zoning etc.
Back Cove, Portland, Maine due to both sea level rise and storm surge now requires a 2 feet higher than FEMA base flood maps for all of their projects. A question from the audience mentioned that because our land is predominately porous limestone by providing alternatives that might be applicable to our region provides “a false sense of security”. Merrill responded that all alternatives have trade-offs and should be considered.
Additional questions from the audience pertained to fiscal costs as well as addressing base building elevations that are critical to addressing the many issues associated with sea level rise. Hurricane Sandy is the most recent and perhaps the most powerful evidence that through modeling, risks can be predicted and made useful to better prepare for future events.
Concerned that modeling can itself be limiting in terms of perhaps encouraging BAU (business as usual) fostering a sense of climate denial, Spencer Reeder responded that “cities can lead by example”.