Extreme weather events, including droughts and flooding brought on by rising sea levels and heavy storms, can impact everything from infrastructure to safe, reliable water supplies—and society as a whole. A new government National Climate Assessment report looks at how the U.S. is experiencing climate change, and details actions that can strengthen resilience and reduce risks for current and future generations.
The Fifth National Climate Assessment (NCA5) report includes contributions from agencies including, but not limited to, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and authors from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).
The report reflects positive news: U.S. greenhouse gas emissions fell 12% between 2005 and 2019, a trend largely driven by changes in electricity generation. However, findings also show drastic outcomes of climate change:
Amid Sweeping Climate Changes, Standards Foster Resilience
The report authors recognize that efficiently addressing many of these risks will involve long-term inclusive planning, investments in transformative adaptation, and mitigation approaches that consider equity and justice. To that end, the report covers ways to build resiliency, highlighting the importance of standards: “Forward-looking designs of infrastructure and services can help build resilience to climate change, offset costs from future damage to transportation and electrical systems, and provide other benefits, including meeting evolving standards to protect public health, safety, and welfare,” the authors note.
NIST reports that it is actively working on addressing climate change and community resilience issues, including initiatives related to integrating climate change work into planning tools for communities.
As an example, the Community Resilience Planning Guide for Buildings and Infrastructure Systems and companion playbook provide a practical and flexible approach to support all communities looking to improve their resilience by setting priorities. Furthermore, NIST’s Economic Decision Guide Software (EDGe$) online tool and accompanying ASTM standards can help these communities determine how best to allocate resources to manage risks.
A multitude of other standards also help protect against the elements, and support emergency services.
The international standard ISO 14091:2021, Adaptation to climate change - Guidelines on vulnerability, impacts and risk assessment, describes how to understand vulnerability and how to develop and implement a sound risk assessment in the context of climate change. It can be used for assessing both present and future climate change risks. The standard was prepared by Technical Committee (TC) 207, Environmental management, Subcommittee (SC) 7, Greenhouse gas management and related activities.
To protect against severe elements, ASTM International’s ASTM E1996-23, Standard Specification for Performance of Exterior Windows, Curtain Walls, Doors, and Impact Protective Systems Impacted by Windborne Debris in Hurricanes, covers exterior windows, glazed curtain walls, doors, and impact protective systems used in buildings located in geographic regions that are prone to hurricanes.
Changes in climate lead to warmer and drier conditions, which are linked to wildfires. To mitigate the impact, the National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) NFPA 295, Standard for Wildfire Control, specifies procedures for the control of wildfires, including department management, fireground organization, equipment, and apparatus.
As emergency services are essential during crises, the Consumer Technology Association, formerly Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), has developed a voluntary standard, CEA 2009-B-2010, Receiver Performance Specification For Public Alert Receivers, that defines minimum performance criteria for consumer electronic products designed to receive SAME alert signals broadcast by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Weather Radio network and Environment Canada’s Meteorological Services of Canada Radio network.
Read the NCA5 report online.