Seven Principles for Equitable Adaptation

Author:Alice Kaswan
Position:Professor at the University of San Francisco School of Law
Pages:41-46
 
CONTENT
412012–2013
SEVEN PRINCIPLES FOR EQUITABLE ADAPTATION1
Prof. Alice Kaswan*
As Professors Robert Bullard and Beverly Wright have
stated,“[c]limate change looms as the global environ-
mental justice issue of the twenty-first century,” posing
critical challenges “for communities that are already overbur-
dened with air pollution, poverty, and environmentally related
illnesses.”2 Around the world, sea level rise, more extreme
storms, heat waves, wildfires, changing weather patterns, and
the spread of disease appear inevitable.3 Reducing greenhouse
gas (GHG) emissions is necessary but not sufficient to address
the potential damage.4 Global, national, and subnational adapta-
tion measures to reduce climate harm are essential.5 To avoid
substantial disparities in the
impacts of climate change,
equity considerations should
play a vital role in emerging
United States adaptation initia-
tives.6 Focusing on domestic
law, this article briefly describes
climate change impacts and the
role of socioeconomic factors
in determining their magnitude.
It then provides seven prin-
ciples for achieving equitable
adaptation.
CLIMATE CHANGE
IMPACTS
Among the most dramatic
impacts of climate change will
be the increasing incidence
of disasters.7 Climate scientists anticipate that flooding will
become more common and severe as sea levels rise and hurri-
canes become more intense, generating more destructive storm
surges – the consequences of which were all too evident after
Hurricane Sandy’s inundation of New York and New Jersey in
Fall 2012.8 Throughout the nation, precipitation events are likely
to become more extreme9 and, in some parts of the country,
overall precipitation levels are already increasing dramatically.10
Scientists predict increasing wildfires in the western states,11
predictions borne out by recent record-breaking fires.12 Risks
from flooding and fire include not only the direct harm from ris-
ing waters or flames, but contamination risks from inundated or
incinerated industrial and hazardous waste facilities,13 the need
to dispose of tons of debris,14 and the long-term housing and
economic impacts that endure for years after major disasters.15
Adaptation measures must address adequate disaster prepared-
ness, response, recovery, and mitigation measures to reduce
long-term risks.
Increasing disaster risks could also render certain parts
of the country uninhabitable. Migration away from low-lying
coastal areas and floodplains may ultimately be necessary.16
Certain tribal communities in coastal Alaska, like the Village
of Kivalina, already face the need to relocate.17 Additional cli-
mate impacts, like unsustainably high temperatures, droughts or
saltwater intrusion that depletes essential water supplies, could
likewise require large-scale population shifts.18 Adaptation
measures must address local decision-making processes that
govern decisions about when to protect an area from harm
(through, for example, coastal armoring, levees, or the enhance-
ment of natural buffers), when
to adjust (through, for example,
building standards to increase
resilience), and when to retreat
(through, for example, con-
servation easements or public
purchase of at-risk property).
Scientists have also found
that climate change will lead
to numerous public health
threats. Climate scientists
predict that by 2100, average
temperatures in the United
States will increase by four to
eleven degrees and heat waves
that historically occurred once
every twenty years will occur
every other year.19 Heat waves
are among the most lethal of
disasters, causing as many or more deaths than other types of
disasters.20 Moreover, higher temperatures trigger higher pollu-
tion levels, increasing the negative public health consequences
of high heat.21 Warmer temperatures in the United States are
also predicted to lead to the spread of disease and allergens.22
Climate change will have pervasive economic impacts
as well. For example, 80,000 businesses and almost 400,000
* Alice Kaswan is a professor at the University of San Francisco School of Law.
Her scholarship focuses on climate justice, climate federalism, and environmen-
tal justice. In addition to writing about climate adaptation, she has written exten-
sively on climate mitigation, including articles on the Clean Air Act’s approach
to greenhouse gas regulation and its implications for traditional pollutants, the
environmental justice implications of cap-and-trade programs for greenhouse
gases, and the federalism challenges posed by proposed national greenhouse gas
programs. She is a member scholar of the Center for Progressive Reform and
the Chair-Elect of the AALS Environmental Law Committee. The author would
like to thank Randy Rabidoux USF ’13 for his research assistance, and Robin
Craig, Dan Farber, Victor Flatt, Carmen Gonzalez, J.B. Ruhl, and Rob Verchick
for their very helpful comments on the longer version of this article, referenced
infra, note 1.
Adaptation measures
must address adequate
disaster preparedness,
response, recovery, and
mitigation measures to
reduce long-term risks.
42 SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT LAW & POLICY
jobs were reportedly lost from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.23
Changes in resource availability, like water supplies, could
increase the cost of water and, given the importance of irrigation
to agriculture, increase the cost of food.24 Warmer temperatures
may increase demand for air conditioning, potentially increasing
electricity costs.25 Climate mitigation efforts, however well-
meaning, could also increase energy costs, by either placing a
price on carbon through a market-based control mechanism or
by encouraging the use of more expensive renewable energy
sources.26 More broadly, adaptation measures themselves are
likely to be extremely costly. Fortifying or moving key infra-
structure, like roads, airports, and sewage treatment plants, will
cost billions.27 Relocating communities or buying out property
owners to protect them from harm would cost billions more.28
Disaster response and reconstruction costs multiple billions of
dollars.29 Indirectly, addressing
climate impacts and financing
adaptation measures could drain
government resources from other
functions, like education and the
social safety net, unless alternative
financing sources are developed.30
CLIMATE CHANGE IMPACTS
AND EQUITY
The consequences of cli-
mate change will be experienced
unevenly. In the United States,
poor and marginalized communi-
ties without sufficient financial
and social resources will face
significant adaptation chal-
lenges.31 To quote Professor Robert Verchick: “Catastrophe
is bad for everyone. But it is especially bad for the weak and
disenfranchised.”32
While it is critical to determine risk exposure – to assess
the likelihood that a community will encounter a given climate
impact – a community’s ultimate vulnerability cannot be deter-
mined without also assessing its sensitivity and its capacity to
cope. 33 Depending upon the type of climate impact at issue,
sensitivity is determined by such features as the quality of the
housing stock, underlying health conditions, land elevation, and
proximity to other hazards. The capacity to cope is a function
of such factors as a community’s financial and social resources,
access to health care, and geographic mobility.
Both physical and social factors thus determine climate
impacts.34 Social scientists evaluate social factors in terms of
social vulnerability, defined as “the characteristics of a person or
group in terms of their capacity to anticipate, cope with, resist,
and recover from the impact of a natural hazard.35 Substantial
evidence demonstrates that social vulnerability is greater for the
poor, the elderly, racial minorities, people with underlying health
conditions or disabilities, the socially isolated and politically
marginalized, immigrants, and communities that are dependent
upon vulnerable natural resources.36
To avoid these disparities, climate change adaptation
policies must grapple with underlying socioeconomic inequities.
Decreasing social vulnerability requires adaptation measures
that both reduce the underlying sensitivity to harm and enhance
impacted communities’ resilience to harm after it has occurred.
As in the environmental justice context, pursuing climate justice
involves improving substantive outcomes for disadvantaged
communities, developing inclusive and empowering participa-
tory mechanisms, and addressing the deeper social and institu-
tional forces that create and perpetuate systemic disparities,37
themes addressed by the seven principles articulated below.
Improving equity is valuable not only on its own terms,
but because of the adverse societal consequences of failing to
address equity. Widespread homelessness, unemployment, and
illness disrupt the social fabric of a community and could cre-
ate far-reaching instability. The
already-frayed social safety net
may be unable to cope with the
scale of disruption that could
occur. Considered comprehen-
sively, it is more prudent to
develop adaptation plans that
avoid harm than it is to attempt to
repair the harm after the fact — or
suffer the consequences of irrepa-
rable devastation.38
SEVEN PRINCIPLES FOR
EQUITABLE ADAPTATION
Given the key role of socio-
economic factors in determining
the magnitude of climate impacts,
an integrated ecological, social, and economic approach to
adaptation planning, like that suggested by Rob Verchick and
by Manuel Pastor and his co-authors in the disaster planning
context, is essential to equitable adaptation efforts.39 Although
successful adaptation will require attention to a wide range of
important principles,40 this article articulates a subset of that
array, focusing on those principles with the greatest impact on
equity.
The principles are intended to guide adaptation planning
in any of the contexts in which it emerges. The principles are
applicable to action taken by local, state, or national entities.
They could inform new adaptation legislation, or they could be
integrated into adaptation efforts by institutions, like disaster
management agencies, housing agencies, public health orga-
nizations, and local governments as they act under existing
authorities.
1. GOVERNMENT HAS AN IMPORTANT ROLE TO PLAY
A threshold question is whether government action is neces-
sary or whether people can (and should) take care of themselves.
There is little dispute over the importance of governmental
measures to protect key infrastructure, like highways and energy
systems. Where individual or private business welfare is at
stake, however, some might argue that as long as the government
The principles are
intended to guide
adaptation planning in
any of the contexts in
which it emerges.
432012–2013
provides accurate and accessible information about current and
future climate impacts, the private market will generate the
optimal response. As citizens perceive growing threats, they will
respond, and their responses will reflect their individual (and dif-
fering) risk tolerances. For example, they will or will not move
away from floodplains, seashores, or disease-prone areas, buy
hazard insurance, trim fire-prone vegetation in their yards, and
purchase air conditioning. Under this view, if citizens end up in
harm’s way, then they are responsible for their own choices.41
Relying on individual initiative is, however, unlikely to lead
to sufficient adaptation. Individuals could discount what appear
to be inchoate, distant, and remote threats. As a consequence,
they could fail to make sufficient investments to prepare for
uncertain risks. Moreover, certain adaptation choices, like
retreat, require difficult emotional decisions that could lead to
collectively irrational results, as community residents prefer
denial to leaving their homes and communities and losing all the
social capital that resides in existing community structures.
Relying on the market is particularly detrimental to low-
income marginalized communities. As Manuel Pastor and
his co-authors have observed, relying on “market forces” to
adequately prepare for disasters and other climate change
impacts will fail to provide an adequate adaptation response
because reliance on private action fails to protect those without
the knowledge or means to act, systematically disadvantaging
poor and isolated communities.42 Even assuming adequate
knowledge, poor residents do not have the resources to respond
to that knowledge by preparing, insuring, or moving.43 When
serious disasters occur, the government has historically provided
some compensation, but that compensation cannot make up for
underlying inequities.44
Moreover, relying on market forces to depopulate at-risk
areas would exacerbate, not reduce, risks to low-income and of-
color citizens who could be powerfully attracted to newly afford-
able housing – housing that has become affordable and available
because it is at risk.45 Where citizens do not have adequate
resources and face limited housing mobility due to lingering
discrimination, individual responses to climate change risk do
not reflect free and unconstrained “choices.”
Given the likelihood that market forces will fail to ade-
quately protect people from harm, and fail in ways that exac-
erbate risks for more vulnerable populations, comprehensive
government adaptation initiatives are warranted. The remainder
of this section addresses key themes to guide the incorporation
of equity considerations in adaptation policy.
2. DESIGN SUBSTANTIVE ADAPTATION MEASURES THAT
ADDRESS VULNERABILITY
Adaptation policies that attempt to treat everyone the same,
regardless of underlying demographic characteristics, will result
in substantial inequality given underlying differences. To achieve
equitable adaptation, adaptation policies must explicitly address
the demographics of affected populations and target interven-
tions to address the needs of the most vulnerable.46 Although
such measures cannot eliminate all inequity – they cannot
prevent the inexorable loss of Native American Alaskan coastal
communities, for example – they could in many instances reduce
harm and lessen disparities. Relevant characteristics include
income, race, age, status as renters versus owners, and type of
employment. Immigrant status is also relevant to adaptation
policy, and is addressed explicitly below in connection with
communication measures.
Disparities in income create many of the most significant
disparities in vulnerability to climate change impacts. Income
disparities also have a racial dimension: Although many whites
live in poverty, communities of color are disproportionately
poor.47 Climate impacts that disproportionately impact the poor
will therefore affect a larger percentage of people of color.
Adaptation policies that target resources toward low-income
communities could thus ameliorate both income and racial
disparities.
For example, given poor families’ lack of resources to
prepare for disasters,48 funding hazard preparation measures
for low-income households or assisting with housing retrofits
to provide cooling could improve outcomes for disadvantaged
communities.49 Moreover, poor residents are less likely to have
adequate transportation to flee disasters,50 face greater chal-
lenges in finding affordable and safe shelter if evacuation is
necessary,51 and are less likely to have air conditioning or other
means for keeping cool in heat waves.52 As Hurricane Katrina
made abundantly clear, adaptation plans must provide timely
transportation options,53 provide for adequate and safe public
shelters, and provide cooling centers in heat waves so that poor
residents do not remain in place – and at risk – because of inad-
equate transportation or fear of public facilities.
In the disaster recovery context, to avoid homelessness and
widespread suffering, low-income residents will require various
forms of assistance, including adequate housing vouchers and
relocation assistance where rebuilding is infeasible. If rebuilding
requirements, like flood-proofing codes, add significant costs
to re-building, then government support for such measure may
be needed to ensure that low-income households are not priced
out of rebuilding.54 Given the challenges in siting and building
low-income and public housing, a strong governmental role,
and financial support, is likely to be necessary to ensure that
adequate low-income options are available.
Long-range land use planning to address shifts in habit-
ability will have important equity implications and should avoid
criteria that adversely impact low-income communities. For
example, if planners in an area subject to flooding risks were
to choose what areas to protect based solely upon land value,
that criterion would systematically undermine poor communi-
ties, communities that often have less power in local land use
debates.55 Land use decisions about protection, retreat, and new
development should be guided by substantive criteria that recog-
nize a range of community values, including but not limited to
land value. In addition, decisions about how to facilitate retreat,
and how to compensate for the loss of property, should recognize
that low-income residents do not have the resources to start fresh
44 SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT LAW & POLICY
elsewhere and face significant risks of homelessness or deepen-
ing poverty if relocation assistance is not provided.
Such long-range land use planning must also address poten-
tial impacts on areas that are likely to experience in-migration,
as the population shifts from areas at risk to areas that face
fewer risks and remain more habitable.56 Adequate affordable
housing in the nation’s more habitable regions will be essential
to avoid serious housing shortages and potential increases in
homelessness.
Income is not the only demographic feature requiring
sustained attention in the development of adaptation measures.
Elderly and disabled residents face substantially greater risks
in disasters because they are less likely to have adequate inde-
pendent transportation, fare worse in shelters without adequate
medical services, and are likely to suffer greater psychological
distress from a disaster’s profound disruptions.57 They are also
more vulnerable to public health threats, like heat and disease.58
As a consequence, special accommodations for transportation,
shelter, and medical needs are necessary for elderly and disabled
residents to avoid serious consequences from disasters and the
range of public health threats that climate change could cause.59
Renters also require particularized attention. Renters are
less able to prepare for disasters or heat waves because landlords
control investments in home strengthening, air conditioning, or
other mechanisms to reduce vulnerability to disasters or heat
waves.60 Local governments could adopt building codes that
require or incentivize landlords to strengthen structures and
install air conditioning. Moreover, in hot climates, building
codes could require building designs that minimize summer heat
and incorporate energy-efficient cooling mechanisms. Given
evidence that past disaster recovery programs have provided
more resources for homeowners than for displaced renters,61
adaptation planners should ensure that recovery programs pro-
vide adequate options for renters, including vouchers and hous-
ing alternatives.62 In developing post-disaster rebuilding plans,
relevant officials should include sufficient replacement rental
and public housing, housing that has historically been replaced
at a lower rate than other forms of housing.63
Lastly, given variations in risk exposure by occupation,
adaptation planning should address the unique needs of certain
workers. Outdoor workers, like agricultural, construction, and
sanitation workers, face greater risks from high heat and pol-
lution levels.64 Those risks could be reduced by adjustments to
the workday and by occupational safety guidelines that address
adequate hydration, cessation of work when ambient tempera-
tures exceed a certain level, and other measures to protect vul-
nerable workers.
3. PROVIDE CULTURALLY-SENSITIVE COMMUNICATIONS
AND SERVICES
Communication is key to effective adaptation. Given the
diversity of populations, community and demographic-specific
strategies are necessary.65 Public education can help communi-
ties prepare for disasters and inform them about how to address
public health risks from heat waves, allergens, or new diseases.
Early warning systems are also essential to prepare for weather-
related disasters, including potential flooding and heat waves.66
Effective disaster response requires providing those affected
with information about evacuation and shelter options. After
a disaster occurs, effective recovery depends upon widespread
access to information about available recovery resources.
Experience in the disaster context demonstrates that lin-
guistic and cultural isolation will exacerbate climate impacts
for immigrant communities unless proactive steps are taken to
develop community-specific communication mechanisms.67
In addition to identifying language needs, adaptation planners
need to identify culturally appropriate modes of communication
including, potentially, newspapers, radio, television, e-mail,
social media, or door-to-door outreach.68 Given undocumented
immigrants’ justifiable fear of deportation or historically rooted
distrust of government,69 government agencies should provide
assurances that they will not deport.70 In addition, agencies could
partner with nongovernmental community organizations that
could facilitate community outreach, provide information, and
help organize vulnerable or impacted communities.71 The same
issues arise in the context of providing services, like shelters or
cooling centers, and in the context of distributing resources, like
disaster relief.
Effective communications strategies are likely to vary for
non-immigrant as well as immigrant communities, and require
location-specific assessments.72 Some neighborhoods may have
strained relationships with local police departments or other
officials.73 Certain populations could also require different
communication methods. For example, personal, door-to-door
warning and assistance may be necessary to adequately prepare
elderly and disabled residents.74
4. DEVELOP PARTICIPATORY PROCESSES
Decisionmakers cannot develop substantively appropri-
ate adaptation and communication strategies without the right
participatory processes. Given the importance of community-
specific information, adaptation planning processes require
bottom-up participatory mechanisms.75 Such participatory pro-
cesses are important not only to obtain critical information, but
to provide marginalized communities with a voice in difficult
political decisions.76 Consistent with principles of environmen-
tal justice, adaptation planning could provide a vehicle for com-
munity empowerment and self-determination.77
Adaptation planners should engage with community leaders
to obtain site-specific information about relative disaster or heat
preparedness and to identify appropriate modes of – and insti-
tutions for – communicating information about preparedness,
warnings, and recovery.78 Community-based information about
available resources is also essential, including transportation and
shelter options in the event of natural disasters or heat waves.79
The political dimension to participatory processes is as
important as the informational dimension. Many adaptation-
related decisions will be politically controversial. For example,
planners must determine who benefits from disaster recovery
resources. What resources for homeowners? What resources for
452012–2013
renters? If new housing will be built, what income levels will
it serve? With what neighborhood structures? In the long-term,
communities facing flood and fire risks will have to make fateful
decisions about what areas to protect and what areas to abandon.
To be effective, participatory opportunities need to occur
early in the process and address local power dynamics. Timing
is critical to the ability to shape decision making; an obligatory
public hearing on an already-complete planning document does
not constitute real public participation. An extended process
of place-based community hearings and forums is more likely
to generate meaningful participation.80 Moreover, given power
disparities and the political marginalization of some communi-
ties, carefully crafted and targeted outreach will be necessary to
draw in all communities. While good participatory mechanisms
cannot erase endemic power imbalances, they at least provide
transparent forums that give historically less powerful constitu-
encies a seat at the table.
5. REDUCE UNDERLYING NON-CLIMATE ENVIRONMENTAL
STRESSES
In some instances, climate change does not create new risks;
it exacerbates existing risks. For example, it could increase risks
from flooded sewage treatment plants, industry, or waste sites.81
As Prof. Robin Craig has observed, a key adaptation principle
is to “Eliminate or Reduce Non-climate Stresses and Otherwise
Promote Resilience.”82 By improving the baseline, climate
impacts will be less extreme. Because environmental justice
research has demonstrated that many existing environmental
problems, like hazardous waste storage and disposal sites, air
pollution, and other environmental risks are disproportionately
located in of-color and low-income communities,83 reducing
non-climate environmental stressors will have indirect equity
benefits.
For example, improving inadequate storm water manage-
ment, an existing non-climate problem, could mitigate the
contamination that could arise from climate-caused increases
in extreme precipitation.84 In their compliance and enforce-
ment initiatives, EPA or applicable state agencies could include
vulnerability to disasters as a key factor in prioritizing their
review of industrial and municipal storm water management
plans and assessing compliance with industrial waste storage
requirements. Similarly, the federal superfund program and its
state equivalents could consider flood or fire risks in prioritiz-
ing cleanup efforts and in selecting remedies that take potential
future disasters into account.85 Moreover, aggressive efforts to
reduce air pollution now will reduce the adverse consequences
of future heat-induced air pollution increases.86
Following this principle would not only mitigate climate
impacts; it would provide significant co-benefits by reducing
existing non-climate stresses. Given extensive co-benefits, such
initiatives are often considered “no” or “low” regrets policies
that are justified whether or not climate change occurs.87
6. MITIGATE MITIGATION: ADDRESSING ADAPTATION/
MITIGATION TRADEOFFS
Although climate adaptation (addressing the impacts of
climate change) and climate mitigation (reducing GHG emis-
sions to lessen climate change) often involve different regulatory
strategies, there are significant interactions between adaptation
and mitigation measures. Policymakers need to consider the
interplay between mitigation and adaptation.
In some instances, mitigation measures could be “maladap-
tive” by creating adaptation challenges, some of which raise
equity concerns.88 For example, a key strategy for reducing
GHG emissions is encouraging smart growth to reduce trans-
portation emissions from sprawl.89 That smart growth could,
however, increase urban heat. Scientists have documented that
dense urban environments increase urban temperatures by sev-
eral degrees over less-dense surrounding areas, a phenomena
known as the “urban heat island effect.90 Moreover, although
having denser cities might reduce overall air pollution emissions
by reducing the driving associated with sprawl, increased urban
density could increase localized air pollution levels.91 Finally,
because many existing urban areas are in coastal areas and
along rivers that face high disaster risks,92 intensifying growth
would often, as Prof. Lisa Grow Sun has suggested, constitute
“smart growth in dumb places.”93 Where smart growth is jus-
tified, land use measures should prevent development in the
riskiest areas and provide green spaces to minimize urban heat.94
Transportation infrastructure should facilitate evacuation and be
resilient to damage from potential disasters.95
Certain mitigation measures could also generate equity con-
cerns if they increase energy costs, which could occur through
greater reliance on more expensive renewable energy or from
imposing a price on carbon through a market-based mechanism
like cap-and-trade or a carbon tax.96 Measures to alleviate such
impacts, like financing energy efficiency or public transporta-
tion, would ameliorate the potential adverse economic conse-
quences of climate mitigation policies.
In other instances, adaptation measures could compromise
mitigation. For example, while policymakers should develop
cooling strategies to protect people from heat waves, policies
that simply require or finance the installation of air conditioning
would undermine mitigation by increasing energy demand.97 In
addition to, or instead of air conditioning, policymakers should
consider building standards that lead to cooler buildings,98 urban
designs that reduce the heat island effect, cooling centers, and
demand-response systems that allow residents or utilities to
reduce air conditioning use in unoccupied buildings.
7. A COMPREHENSIVE AGENDA
While these suggestions for incorporating equity consider-
ations into adaptation planning are important, it is also clear that
they address symptoms, not causes. Underlying socioeconomic
vulnerabilities create the disparities in the capacity to recover and
reconstruct from disasters, inequities in the capacity to relocate
to avoid harm, and differences in the public health consequences
46 SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT LAW & POLICY
of increasing heat, pollution, and disease. We are confronting
more than a “disaster planning” or “adaptation planning” issue.
A larger socioeconomic agenda is critical to achieving
equitable adaptation. The IPCC has stated that “[a] prerequisite
for sustainability in the context of climate change is addressing
the underlying causes of vulnerability, including the structural
inequalities that create and sustain poverty and constrain access
to resources.”99 The IPCC states further that “[a]ddressing social
welfare, quality of life, infrastructure, and livelihoods … in the
short term … facilitates adaptation to climate extremes in the
longer term.”100
Successful adaptation will require addressing such per-
vasive issues as poverty, affordable housing, the provision of
healthcare, and the political voice of currently marginalized
communities.101 Building social infrastructure has always been
a laudable goal. Impending climate impacts provide yet another
reason to mend social ills, or risk systemic disruptions that could
make disasters like Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath the norm
rather than the exception.
CONCLUSION
While global climate change is an “environmental” prob-
lem, the scope and scale of its impacts is strongly determined
by underlying socioeconomic variables. As climate impacts
emerge, they have the potential to exacerbate existing inequali-
ties and cause severe hardships for the nation’s most vulnerable
populations – hardships that are not only intrinsically of con-
cern, but also destabilizing to the larger community. These seven
principles provide policymakers with guideposts for achieving
equitable adaptation.
Endnotes: Seven Principles for Equitable Adaptation
1 This essay is adapted from a longer article entitled “Domestic Climate
Change Adaptation and Equity,” 42 ENVTL. L. REP. 11125 (2012).
2 ROBERT D. BULLARD & BEVERLY WRIGHT, THE WRONG COMPLEXION FOR
PROTECTION: HOW THE GOVERNMENT RESPONSE TO DISASTER ENDANGERS AFRICAN
AMERICAN COMMUNITIES 51 (2012).
3 See generally CLIMATE CHANGE 2007: IMPACTS, ADAPTATION AND VULNER-
ABILITY, CONTRIBUTION OF WORKING GROUP II TO THE FOURTH ASSESSMENT REPORT
OF THE INTERGOVERNMENTAL PANEL ON CLIMATE CHANGE (M.L. Parry et al., eds.,
2007), available at: http://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar4/wg2/ar4-
wg2-spm.pdf.
4 Public attention is understandably focused on climate mitigation – on policies
to reduce greenhouse gas emissions – but mitigation measures cannot undo the
consequences of already-accumulated atmospheric greenhouse gases (GHGs).
See INTERGOVERNMENTAL PANEL ON CLIMATE CHANGE, Summary for Policymakers,
in CLIMATE CHANGE 2007: IMPACTS, ADAPTATION AND VULNERABILITY, supra note
3, at 19, 20 [hereinafter IPCC, Summary for Policymakers], available at: http://
www.ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar4/wg2/ar4-wg2-spm.pdf; UNITED STATES
GLOBAL CHANGE RESEARCH PROGRAM, GLOBAL CLIMATE CHANGE IMPACTS IN THE
UNITED STATES 11 (2009) [hereinafter USGCRP REPORT], available at: http://
downloads.globalchange.gov/usimpacts/pdfs/climate-impacts-report.pdf.
5 The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change defines adaptation as:
“the adjustment in natural or human systems in response to actual or expected
climatic stimuli or their effects, which moderates harm or exploits beneficial
opportunities.” See CLIMATE CHANGE 2007: IMPACTS, ADAPTATION AND VULNER-
ABILITY, supra note 3, at 6. On balance, scientists predict that the negative
consequences will outweigh the beneficial impacts. See IPCC, Summary for
Policymakers, supra note 4, at 17.
6 Cf. ROBERT R. M. VERCHICK, FACING CATASTROPHE: ENVIRONMENTAL ACTION
FOR A POST-KATRINA WORLD 105-70 (2010) (proposing “Be Fair” as a central
principal of disaster law); Jim Chen, Law among the Ruins, in LAW AND RECOV-
ERY FROM DISASTER: HURRICANE KATRINA 1, 3 (Robin Malloy, ed., 2009) (arguing
that the quest for equality should be a central component of disaster law);
Victor B. Flatt, Adapting Laws for a Changing World: A Systemic Approach to
Climate Change Adaptation, 64 FLORIDA L. REV. 269, 289-91 (2012) (discussing
the important role of distributional justice in adaptation); J.B. Ruhl & James
Salzman, Climate Change Meets the Law of the Horse, 62 DUKE L.J. 975 (2013)
(suggesting equity as one of three overarching policy goals for adaptation
efforts); Robert R.M. Verchick, Disaster Justice: The Geography of Human
Capability, 23 DUKE ENVTL L. & POLY FORUM 23 (2012).
7 See NATL RESEARCH COUNCIL, ADAPTING TO THE IMPACTS OF CLIMATE CHANGE
1 (2010), available at: http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=12783.
8 Sea levels have already increased over the last century and, notwithstanding
uncertainty about the magnitude, climatologists predict further increases of
three to four feet by 2100. See USGCRP REPORT, supra note 4, at 149 (describ-
ing past increase of up to two feet) and 150 (predicting future increase) and 149
(predicting more destructive storm surges). While no single weather event can
be attributed to climate change, Hurricane Sandy provided a wake-up call to
many about climate change and the risks of rising sea levels and more intense
storm surges. Thomas Kaplan, Most New Yorkers Think Climate Change Caused
Hurricane, Poll Finds, THE NEW YORK TIMES (Dec. 3, 2012).
9 See IPCC, MANAGING THE RISKS OF EXTREME EVENTS AND DISASTERS TO
ADVANCE CLIMATE CHANGE ADAPTATION 13 (2012) [hereinafter IPCC, MANAGING
THE RISKS], available at http://www.ipcc-wg2.gov/SREX/.
10 Between 1958 and 2007, heavy storms increased by 67 percent in the North-
east and by 31 percent in the Midwest. USGCRP REPORT, supra note 4, at 32.
11 Id. at 82 (describing fourfold increase in western wildfires over the last
several decades).
12 See, e.g., Pete Spotts, Monster Wildfire in Arizona: A Glimpse of What
Climate Change Could Bring, CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR, June 9, 2011, http://
www.csmonitor.com/Environment/ 2011/0609/Monster-wildfire-in-Arizona-
A-glimpse-of-what-climate-change-could-bring; Darryl Fears, Colorado’s
Table Was Set for Monster Fires, THE WASHINGTON POST, Jul. 1, 2012, http://
www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/colorados-table-was-set-for-
monster-fire/2012/07/01/gJQAVa6cGW_story.html.
13 VERCHICK, supra note 5, at 133; Robin Kundis Craig, A Public Health
Perspective on Sea-Level Rise: Starting Points for Climate Change Adaptation,
XV WIDENER L. REV. 521, 536-37 (2010); MANUEL PASTOR ET AL., IN THE WAKE
OF THE STORM: ENVIRONMENT, DISASTER, AND RACE AFTER KATRINA 30 (2006).
14 See LINDA LUTHER, CONG. RESEARCH SERV., RL33477, DISASTER DEBRIS
REMOVAL AFTER HURRICANE KATRINA: STATUS AND ASSOCIATED ISSUES (updated
2008) (describing post-Katrina debris removal challenges).
15 See, e.g., PASTOR, supra note 13, at 25-27 (describing the long-term challenges
in recovering from disasters, particularly for poor and minority communities).
16 See, e.g., NATL RESEARCH COUNCIL, supra note 7, at 75.
17 See Randall S. Abate, Public Nuisance Suits for the Climate Justice Move-
ment: The Right Thing and the Right Time, 85 WASH. L. REV. 197, 207 (2010).
18 See, e.g., Robin Kundis Craig, “Stationarity is Dead” – Long Live Transfor-
mation: Five Principles for Climate Change Adaptation Law, 34 HARV. ENVTL.
L. REV. 9, 55 (2010) (noting the possibility of significant migration from arid
western areas to wetter regions, and from coastal areas inland).
19 USGCRP REPORT, supra note 4, at 29, 34 (describing predicted increase in
average temperatures; describing predicted increase in heat waves).
20 USGCRP REPORT, supra note 4, at 90 (reporting that: “[h]eat is already
the leading cause of weather-related deaths in the United States”). A severe
2003 European heat wave reportedly caused 70,000 excess deaths. See NATL
RESEARCH COUNCIL, supra note 7.
21 U.S. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY (“EPA”), OUR NATIONS AIR: STA-
TUS AND TRENDS THROUGH 2010 11 (2012). Higher temperatures increase the rate
at which ozone, a significant air pollutant, is formed from its precursor com-
pounds, nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds. See also USGCRP
REPORT, supra note 4, at 92-94.
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