Local Climate Change Challenges and Opportunities:                                                                       U...
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Local Climate Change Challenges and Opportunities: Understanding NYS Municipal Official Perspectives


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Presentation at the Fourth International
Conference on Climate Change: Impacts and Responses in Seattle, WA, July 12-13, 2012.

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Local Climate Change Challenges and Opportunities: Understanding NYS Municipal Official Perspectives

  1. 1. Local Climate Change Challenges and Opportunities: Understanding NYS Municipal Official Perspectives 1 2 2 “I’d say I have minimal knowledge of the science of climate change, but it’s Allison Chatrchyan, Shorna Allred, and Maureen Mullen 1 Cornell University Cooperative Extension (CCE) Dutchess County and CCE Statewide Energy and Climate Change Team pretty clear something’s going on. As the Governor pointed out in the State 2 Cornell University, Human Dimensions Research Unit, Department of Natural Resources, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences of the State Address, the 100-year storms are now occurring every 2 years.” - Mayor of a small city of 15,000 residentsINTRODUCTIONNew Yorkers are already observing effects of global climate change in their Figure 1 represents a few of the keys findings regarding municipal officials’ attitudescommunities, including documented increases in temperature, and an increase about climate change: the majority of respondents agree that there is sufficient scientificin extreme precipitation events. The literature has focused on explaining why evidence of climate change and that it will affect New York and its natural resources, butstates and cities have taken actions to address climate change in the absence a large percentage of respondents do not feel that there is sufficient informationof federal policy, but in New York state, there are a large number of small local available to them about how to address climate impacts at the local level.municipalities that will have to be involved to achieve the states 80/50Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions reduction goal. Cornell University and Figure 1: Local municipal officials perceptions and attitudes about climate change.Cornell Cooperative Extension conducted a survey of elected and appointedmunicipal officials’ across a random sample of New York’s municipalities (with Municipal officials’ key barriers to action:wide ranging populations and geographic structures) to assess their attitudes The science indicates our climate is changing 31% 40% 20% 7% Lack of resources (financial and human);about climate change, local actions, and barriers to action. Our research Inaction of government at all levels;determined local government officials’ views of climate change, local actions Lack of information and external pressure to act; There is sufficient evidence that over the coming Strongly agreebeing taken, barriers to climate action, vulnerabilities, and needs. Although a decade, climate change will affect the natural 26% 37% 21% 13% Intra-organizational issues (lack of authority, conflict between agencies). resources with which I work Agreemajority of municipal officials believe in the science of climate change, fewmunicipalities have taken steps to are taking action to mitigate or adapt to Neutral Municipal officials’ information and resource needs: I already see evidence of how climate change is Climate change in general;New York’s changing climate. affecting New Yorks natural resources 19% 40% 23% 14% Disagree Specific data on the likeliness and severity of the predicted climate Strongly disagreeMETHODS There is sufficient information available on how change effects in their community; 20% 28% 38% 10% How to prevent and/or respond to these effects;The survey instrument was designed to address climate impacts at the local level Specific funding sources and incentive programs;and sent via email and postal mail to Specific adaptation recommendations (e.g., management plans, modelmunicipal officials (e.g., county 0% 50% 100% ordinances, hazard mitigation plans).executives, mayors, town supervisors,Environmental Management Council The majority of municipal official respondents in a statewide survey (63%) indicate theirmembers, and Conservation Advisory municipality has not yet taken any action to address climate change (Figure 2): IMPLICATIONSCouncil members) across New York State This study is significant because it provides data on local municipal Figure 2: Has your municipality already taken actions to address climate change?during the period from 2010-2011 (N=1,416, total number of officials’ knowledge and beliefs about climate change, local actionsrespondents=299, response rate=21%). The statewide survey data was taken in the absence of federal regulation, barriers, and informationsupplemented with nine in-depth interviews with municipal officials in the I Dont needs. New York has adopted an 80/50 goal for GHG emissionHudson Valley in order to determine local government officials’ attitudes Know reductions, but as a home rule state, it has a large number of small 9%towards climate change and perceptions of climate change taking place in their Yes governments (62 counties, 932 towns, and 62 cities) which control 24% energy use, infrastructure, planning, and land use decisions locally.communities. The statewide survey and interview data were analyzed fortrends and comparisons. Currently, only 25% of the municipal officials surveyed have begun addressing climate change in their community. Mitigation of, andRESULTS adaptation to, climate change in New York will require greater outreachThe majority of municipal official respondents in a statewide survey (54%) rate No and tools for these officials. Municipal officials require more precisethemselves as moderately well-informed about climate change; 23% rate 67% data on how the changing climate will affect their municipality, accessthemselves as knowing a little bit, and 8% indicate they do not know much to information and funding to increase energy efficiency and reduceabout the issue. Hudson Valley municipal officials identified the extreme GHG emissions, and concrete recommendations for how they canweather events that had most negatively affected their communities in recent prepare their municipalities for extreme weather events and climateyears: change. Heavy rainfall over short periods of time, leading to flooding; Effects of extreme events on infrastructure, such as roads, bridges, and “We’ve had all of these extreme events. There is never a nice dusting or a spring CONTACT shower anymore; you know…it is a torrent. I think if we wait for the scientists to Cornell University culverts; definitively say, ‘Oh it is climate change,’ it will be too late. I think we really need to Department of Natural Resources Blizzards and ice storms, with heavy wet snow causing downed trees and start changing our behavior patterns to do what we can to counteract climate 209 Bruckner Hall, Ithaca, NY 14853 power outages; change.” Email: amc256@cornell.edu; srb237@cornell.edu; mlm394@cornell.edu Milder winters overall, with decreased snowfall and road salt costs; - Supervisor of a town with 29,000 residents Web: www.human-dimensions.org, www.climatechange.cornell.edu Periods of intense heat waves that negatively affect air quality.