Archive | October, 2014

#O29: Looking Back, and Looking Forward

Two years ago this week, on October 29, 2012, Americans were stunned as Superstorm Sandy engulfed the northeastern US with rain, wind, and floodwaters, ultimately claiming the lives of 286 people and costing $68 billion in damage across seven countries. Across the country this week, people are using the hashtag #O29 – short for October 29—to commemorate that day, remember those we have lost, and to reflect on this and other climate disasters that we have coped with in recent years, as well as how to better prepare for those we are certain to face in the future.

Most experts agree that meeting this challenge will require a two-pronged approach: 1) reducing the level of pollutants that are warming the planet and contributing to an environment in which severe storms can develop, and 2) taking steps to reduce the impacts that climate events have on communities. The White House’s Climate Action Plan (CAP), released in 2013, rightly aims to tackle both of these monumental tasks. This month, under the auspices of the CAP, the Administration released the Priority Agenda for Enhancing the Climate Resilience of America’s Natural Resources. This document re-affirms a top-level commitment both to enhancing the resilience of our natural areas, and to the importance of these areas in helping to protect communities from the impacts of climate change.

The Priority Agenda contains four major pillars:

 1) Foster climate-resilient lands and waters – “Protect important landscapes and develop the science, planning, tools, and practices to sustain and enhance the resilience of the Nation’s natural resources.” Importantly, this priority affirms and builds upon the important work that agencies have already undertaken toward this end, like the National Fish, Wildlife and Plants Climate Adaptation Strategy, and the Department of Agriculture’s efforts to direct Farm Bill conservation programs to resilience-building efforts.

2) Manage and enhance U.S. carbon sinks – Huge amounts of carbon are stored in our soils, forests, and wetlands, and the management of these areas will determine whether they continue to function as carbon “sinks” or will release that carbon to the atmosphere. This priority aims to “Maintain and increase the capacity of these areas to provide vital ecosystem services alongside carbon storage such as clean air and water, wildlife habitat, food, fiber, and recreation.”

3) Enhance community preparedness and resilience by utilizing and sustaining natural resources – Defenders has long been an advocate of the importance of intact habitats and healthy natural areas for protecting human communities from the effects of storms, floods, fires, and extreme heat. We published the report Harnessing Nature on this topic several months before Sandy, and the value of those approaches was demonstrated again and again in the aftermath of that storm.  Thus we applaud the intent and even the wording of this priority: “Harness the benefits of nature to protect communities from harm and build innovative 21st century infrastructure that integrates natural systems into community development.”

4) Modernize Federal programs, investments, and delivery of services to build resilience and enhance sequestration of biological carbon – While agencies have made great strides in the past several years, particularly in accounting for and reducing greenhouse gas emissions in their operations, there is still room for better integration of climate resilience into their programs and activities. This priority should help accomplish that.


#O29 is a reminder that the impacts of climate change are here to stay. But it also reminds us that we can—and must—act to protect our communities, habitats, waters, and wildlife.

Posted in Climate Change, Federal Policy0 Comments

dotWild is the blog of scientists and policy experts at Defenders of Wildlife, a national, nonprofit membership organization dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities.