Mental Health and Our Changing Climate: Impacts, Implications, and Guidance is a report released at the end of March by the American Psychological Association, Climate for Health, and ecoAmerica. The goal is to raise public awareness of the issue and to provide “climate communicators, planners, policymakers, public health professionals, and other leaders the tools and tips needed to respond to these impacts and bolster public engagement on climate solutions.” Although it doesn’t directly address workplace issues, much of the discussion is relevant. For example, the report catalogues the acute mental health impacts that result from the horror and disruption of natural disasters or extreme weather events such as Hurricane Katrina – depression, disrupted social relationships, domestic violence, and heightened intergroup aggression. The report also highlights women as being at higher risk: “because, on average, women have fewer economic resources than men, women may also be more affected, in general, by the stress and trauma of natural disasters.” (p.39).
Extreme weather and disasters focus attention, but there are also chronic impacts resulting from longer- term climate changes – the key example given is a proven increase in violence and inter-personal aggression associated with higher temperatures. Certain occupational groups are highlighted for their high risk to climate-related anxiety, including first responders to natural disasters, but also including health care-givers, and those directly employed in natural settings – conservation officers, park rangers.
The final section of the report deals with tips to build resilience at the individual and community level. It urges that training be provided for first responders so that they can identify and deal with appropriate compassion for the victims of natural disasters.
A newly released survey conducted by the researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology investigates the progress in climate adaptation planning in 468 cities worldwide – 298 of which were in the U.S., 26 were in Canada. Results show that 92% of Canadian cities are pursuing adaptation planning, compared to 68% worldwide, and 59% in the U.S.. The top ranked impacts identified by cities that conducted assessments were: increased stormwater runoff (72%), changes in electricity demand (42%), loss of natural systems (39%), and coastal erosion (36%). Other important issues were loss of economic revenue, drought, and solid waste management. The report, Progress and Challenges in Urban Adaptation Planning: Results of a Global Survey is available at: http://www.icleiusa.org/action-center/learn-from-others/progress-and-challenges-in-urban-climate-adaptation-planning-results-of-a-global-survey, and summarized at: http://www.icleiusa.org/blog/survey_us_cities_report_increase_in_climate_impacts_lag_in_adaptation_planningworldwide-progress-on-urban-climate-adaptation-planning. For a policy perspective, read the David Suzuki blog “Canada’s Success depends on Municipal Infrastructure Investments” (March 13) at: http://www.davidsuzuki.org/blogs/science-matters/2014/03/canadas-success-depends-on-municipal-infrastructure-investments/. For a more anecdotal report which names and describes some innovative Canadian municipalities, see “Five Canadian Communities Fighting Climate Change That You’ve Probably Never Heard of Before” from the DeSmog Blog at: http://www.desmog.ca/2014/04/03/five-canadian-communities-fighting-climate-change-you-ve-probably-never-heard-of-before. It describes Dawson Creek, B.C.; Guelph, Ontario; Varennes, Quebec; T’Sou-ke First Nation, B.C.; and Bridgewater, Nova Scotia. An overview of the Upwind-Downwind Conference of municipalities in Hamilton in March, and a summary of Hamilton’s climate action initiatives, appears in “Ontario Municipalities take Action on Air Quality and Climate Change” at: http://www.alternativesjournal.ca/community/blogs/current-events/ontario-municipalities-take-action-air-quality-and-climate-change.
A February 2014 report from C40, a leading climate action group that links megacities around the world, captures the importance of cities as climate actors. The report highlights the unique potential held by cities where innovations in efficiency and technology are more forthcoming, threats to economic and public wellbeing are often felt more immediately, and leaders have enough local power to respond effectively. The report indicates that mayors worldwide are already doing twice as much to build resilience and reduce emissions than they were in 2011. Nearly half of the 63 major cities surveyed used local green development funds to finance climate action commonly furnished through property, municipal, and local business taxation. Cities that reported addressing climate change as part of economic development commonly did so through the green manufacturing, green infrastructure, and clean technology sectors. The full report is available at:http://www.c40.org/blog_posts/CAM2.
The report was accompanied by the appointment of former mayor of New York and President of the C40 Board of Directors to the position of UN envoy for Cities and Climate Change. Michael Bloomberg pledged to harness the global mayoral power to raise political will and bring “concrete solutions” to the 2014 Climate Summit. Bloomberg, whose contributions in New York included rebuilding aging water mains and creating energy-efficient buildings, asserted that cities are “forging ahead” as progress at international levels stalls. The UN news release on the appointment is available at: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp/story.asp?NewsID=47055&Cr=climate+change&Cr1#.UwaSNIXPxkW. The Guardian coverage including Bloomberg’s reaction is available at: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/feb/05/michael-bloomberg-world-leaders-climate-deal.
According to a new report from the National Municipal Adaptation Project (NMAP) large Canadian cities are keeping pace with the global trend and have climate action plans. However, 65% of smaller communities have no plan in place despite the fact that many have already faced damage from flooding or extreme rainfall in the last ten years. The report is available at: http://www.localadaptation.ca/results-of-the-nmap-survey-of-local-governments.php. An online library of climate change adaptation policies from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities is available at: http://www.fcm.ca/home/programs/partners-for-climate-protection/program-resources/municipal-reports.htm.
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has launched an initiative called “Urban Solutions” to help American cities become cleaner and more resilient by tackling food systems and clean energy, transportation, and storm-water infrastructure. Mayors from 10 major American cities also announced their participation in the City Energy Project, a partnership between the NRDC and the Institute for Market Transformation. The cities are expected to save a combined $1 billion in energy bills, cut 5 million to 7 million tons of annual carbon emissions, and create jobs in architecture, engineering, construction, and more. Read more about Urban Solutions at: http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/spoticha/reconnecting_america_legacy co.html
. The NRDC press release regarding the City Energy Project is available at: http://www.nrdc.org/media/2014/140129a.asp
On November 1, U.S. President Obama signed an Executive Order to implement the goals announced in his Climate Action Plan. The Executive Order establishes an inter-agency Council on Climate Preparedness and Resilience, chaired by the White House and including more than 25 agencies, to develop, coordinate, and implement priority Federal actions related to climate preparedness. It will supervise a new Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience, to be composed of state, local, and tribal leaders, who will advise on how the Federal Government can respond at the community level. In an initiative that Canadians can only dream of, the Executive Order also instructs Federal agencies “to work together and with information users to develop new climate preparedness tools and information that state, local, and private-sector leaders need to make smart decisions. In keeping with the President’s Open Data initiative, agencies will also make extensive Federal climate data accessible to the public through an easy-to-use online portal.”
Read the full Executive Order at: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2013/11/01/executive-order-preparing-united-states-impacts-climate-change, or the Fact Sheet at: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2013/11/01/fact-sheet-executive-order-climate-preparedness.