The USEPA held the 2010 State-EPA Innovation Symposium: Environmental Protection for a Changing Climate and Greener Economy in Madison, Wisconsin November 1-4, 2010. Tribal environmental professionals were also in attendance.
A session, held on Monday November 1, was titled “Asking the Climate Question: An Introduction to the Importance of Climate Change Adaptation”. This session was presented by Dr. Joel Scheraga, Senior Advisor for Climate Adaptation, US EPA and Peter Mulvaney, Department of Water Management, City of Chicago.
Dr. Scheraga discussed climate change as one of the greatest challenge of present time. He further discussed the importance of Tribal communities in both Alaska and in the lower 48, to take action on this issue and to both preserve and protect their cultural resources. Dr. Scheraga discussed the importance of looking at this issue not as an independent program or issue but to include it in existing programs like Tribal air programs. He further stated that climate change is part of an ongoing process and that climate change will continue into the future.1
The discussion of integrating both mitigation and adaptation for climate change into existing programs was included in this session. This strategy includes not only mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants with potential climate impacts, but also adapting to changes in climate that are now unavoidable. Mitigation and adaptation policies have usually been developed in isolation from one another.2 This thinking would be well served to shift in thinking when integrating these strategies in existing Tribal environmental programs. Climate change policies can be viewed and developed in a larger context of “sustainable development” for Tribal communities.3 Thinking this way may further assist Tribes in maintaining both cultural and subsistence resources for upcoming generations.
Climate change impacts on air quality are documented in the document “Health and Global Environmental Change”. This document addressed the impacts from pollutants and pollutant precursors as well as biogenic emissions (pollen). Long term exposure to elevated levels of air pollution have greater affects than acute exposure and this is of concern to Tribal communities who do not have the opportunity to just “pack up and move”. This document also discusses methods of estimating health effects and future health impacts on pages 60-62. Tribes may find this helpful in looking at the relationship between air pollutants and health outcomes.
Many barriers to effective climate change adaptation are economic however some are social, technological or institutional.4 This suggests a possible multi-disciplinary strategy for tribes when integrating climate change in existing programs. Currently, tools exist to help overcome some barriers to the development of climate change strategies. The USEPA has the BASINS program and the current version contains a climate assessment tool which looks at the effects of climate on water resources. If there are enough concerns from Tribes, an air strategy, climate change assessment tool may be looked at. To find out more about the BASINS planning tool click here.
Currently, the USEPA is conducting studies that examine the potential consequences of global change on air quality in the United States. The long-term goal of air quality research in the Global Climate Change Research Program is to provide the approaches, methods, and models to quantitatively evaluate the effects of global change on air quality, and to identify technology advancements and adaptive responses.
This session was very informative and looks to the bigger picture of Tribal issues and climate change. If Tribes are interested in more information on the development of mitigation and adaptation strategies in their Tribal air program, contact NTAA for more information.
- Scheraga, Joel D., “Adapting to Future Climate,” SEPA View, Quarterly magazine of the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency, Vol. 46, Spring 2010, pp. 8-11.
- All subsequent citations are from this article