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Building Strategic Awareness: Understanding Climate Change


When Superstorm Sandy slammed into the eastern seaboard of the United States in late October, it left behind a devastating path of destruction.  Millions were left without power, more than 100 people lost their lives, shorelines and the homes along them were destroyed, wind damaged homes and toppled trees, and the usually bustling streets of New York City’s Financial District were flooded, washing away cars and not to mention closing the New York Stock Exchange for the first time due to weather since the late 1800s. 

We were all likely impacted in some way, whether you lost power, experienced flooding or high wind damage, had travel plans impacted, saw the shipping times for your products increased, or lost business productivity.  While we don’t know whether Superstorm Sandy was a direct or indirect result of climate change, we do know that climate change is happening and that the projections call for more superstorm-like extreme events and incremental changes in temperatures, precipitation, wind, and sea-level rise to occur over time. 

So what is climate change exactly?  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines climate change as “any significant change in the measures of climate lasting for an extended period of time. In other words, climate change includes major changes in temperature, precipitation, or wind patterns, among others, that occur over several decades or longer.”  This means we need to prepare for long-term climate changes that put more pressure and demand on our existing infrastructure.  For example, when thermostats are readjusted to account for increased days of extreme heat, we place greater demands on the electricity grid making it vulnerable to interruptions of service, and the equipment and components of air-conditioning systems in our buildings and homes run longer and potentially wear more quickly. 

Looking for more information?

GSA’s Climate Adaptation Policy and Planning website describes what GSA is doing to prepare for climate change.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency provides a wealth of information on its Climate Change website.

U.S. Global Change Research Program coordinates and integrates federal research on changes in the global environment and their implications for society.

The White House Council on Environmental Quality’s Climate Change Adaptation Task Force provides progress reports, action plans, and implementing instructions for federal agencies.

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