This morning at The National Map Users Conference in Denver, Joel Scheraga, senior advisor for climate adaptation at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, addressed the group. He asserted that for us to be successful in combating and adapting to climate change, it is absolutely imperative to have ready access to geospatial information. truly believe we have an unprecedented opportunity for collaboration.
The climate is changing at an increasingly rapid rate, including changes to the hydrological cycle and more flooding events. The increased days of heavy precipitation have implications for polluting, having impacts to infrastructure and to our economy. The impacts of glacier loss
Climate change matters because of its impacts. The climate effects public health, agriculture, our ecosystems and wildlife, our air quality, our water supply, our coastal areas, and our cultural heritage.
The climate community needs geospatial information in order to asses climate impacts, in order to evaluate the risk that climate change is presenting to us, and to develop and implement plans for adaptation. Adaptation plans are happening now, and adaptation is essential for our nation and the global community to reach the outcomes necessary.
The Federal Interagency Climate Change Adaptation Task Force presents an opportunity with the charge to develop a national plan for resilience and adaptation. Each federal agency is required to develop their own adaptation plan by June of 2012. There is also a charge to integrate science and geospatial information into decision making, as well as to coordinate capabilities across federal agencies for a cooperative national approach.
The changes in ecosystems are already having an impact on the spread of infectious diseases. Research is showing that changes in climate are changing land cover and in result changing animal populations. With Hantivirus outbreaks in the Four Corners Area earlier this decade, this realization led to the creation of risk maps to predict where outbreaks were more likely and were successful in allocating scarce resources to help mitigate the impacts.
Coastal zones are also changing, where homes are already falling into the sea in places like Newtok, Alaska. The Department of Transportation recently did an assessment of the coastal areas in the Gulf Coast and determined that 2,400 miles of coastal highway will be inundated within the next 50 years. Geospatial technology and data is absolutely necessary for the assessment of these impacts.
Water quality is another area of high risk. In Florida where much of the population gets their drinking water from the groundwater, it is at risk for salt water intrusion with sea level rise. The increased high precipitation events also require a need for land cover characterization and runoff modeling are needed to create better riparian .
Air quality will also be impacted as it has the potential to produce significant increases in ground-level ozone in many regions. The spread of wildfires as the climate changes will also impact air quality.
Predictions for the future are underway right now at the EPA to assess the risk of climate change. The need for digital elevation models, land cover, at higher resolution and collected more frequently. Geospatial data is absolutely essential to analyze and effectively plan for adaptation to climate change, and Scheraga insisted that new ways to collaborate are essential to address this pressing problem.