Saturday, September 20, 2014

New U.S. EPA video: "Anticipate, Prepare, Adapt."

Yesterday the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a 3 min. 25 sec. YouTube video titled "Climate Change: The Cost of Inaction" featuring EPA Senior Advisor for Climate Adaptation Joel D. Scheraga (an economist by training). He ends the video by calling for viewers to reduce GHGs and  to "anticipate, prepare, adapt." The viewer is then directed to "" - "What you can do."

The video gives a quick overview of climate change impacts and examples of climate events in recent years that had large price tags for communities-- with price tag estimates captioning the photos and slo-mo videos of devastation from Sandy and Katrina, floods and droughts. Two of the highlights (well, lowlights) are in the U.S. west -- Lake Mead's current historic low behind the Hoover Dam and California's drought-driven wildfire season, priced here at "$260 million and rising in federal fire suppression" for the year thus far (wish there was a citation... is this just the U.S. Forest Service price tag,  is it actual or estimated?).

"What you can do" according to the EPA is do-able but not likely to change our adaptation outcomes, not even if every single one of us did them to our utmost extent at a household level. We are coached:
You can reduce emissions through simple actions like changing a light bulb, powering down electronics, using less water, and recycling. 
It's great to give people a list of 25 things "you can do" to reduce GHGs. Reducing GHGs today are crucial to the adaptation potential of coming generations.

But this problem requires industry-wide, government-wide, world-wide action. Eventually people will catch on that this household to-do list is the equivalent of asking "Do you think your leg is broken?" and suggesting "Make sure your grandchildren take calcium!" instead of "Call 911!"

EPA, where is your guidance on the video's closing commands, "anticipate, prepare, adapt"? 

The EPA "what you can do" page says NOTHING to the person who wants to prepare for today's impacts, addresses NONE of the factors that studies have shown lead to better outcomes after disasters (such as being socially connected to your community, having access to health care, having access to transportation, etc.). They could easily kick the reader over to a page about the importance of community gardens to food security and local environmental awareness-- starting or joining a garden is something "you can do" that might actually help people cope with the current and ongoing climate impacts. Or go to a climate march, like the one in NYC planned for tomorrow. Let the political powers-that-be know we care.

EPA, I like your video, but if you are worried about our communities dealing with climate impacts don't just tell us to change a light bulb and fix a dripping faucet. You can do better.

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