The District of Columbia’s Department of Energy and Environment (DOEE) released a draft of climate adaptation protocols and procedures, and an assessment of the city’s most vulnerable areas. The action plan, Climate Ready DC, identifies current and future impacts of a changing climate on the District’s infrastructure, public facilities, and residents. According to the plan, Wards 6, 7, and 8 are among the neighborhoods most affected.
Climate Ready DC was developed through consultation with leading experts including a team of national consultants, 15 District government agencies, 11 community-based organizations, and public input from two community meetings. What they found was that heatwaves or heavy rains, both of which the city has experienced in recent months, will increase, with the city’s most disenfranchised feeling the effects more directly.
For instance, Wards 7 and 8 are most vulnerable given the higher levels of unemployment, poverty, obesity, and asthma, as well as a large elderly population. According to the report, individuals who are most vulnerable to climate change are more sensitive to events like heatwaves and have less capacity to adapt and respond. This includes older adults and those unable to afford air-conditioning.
“From scorching summer temperatures to higher precipitation and more intense storms, we’re already experiencing the consequences of a changing climate,” said DOEE Director Tommy Wells. “To mitigate the catastrophic effects from acute weather events like the 2012 derecho and address longer-term concerns like sustained high heat advisory days, we must take action immediately. Climate Ready DC is the answer to that charge.”
Poverty and other socioeconomic indicators are not the full story, however. In fact, Climate Ready DC found that several areas around the city, including the Waterfront district in Southwest (Ward 6) and the area surrounding Federal Triangle, downtown, face high risks of flooding from both heavy rains and the sea level rise of the Potomac River. In both areas, District agencies, schools, fire and EMS stations, and public housing would be overwhelmingly impacted.
The DOEE also completed Vulnerability Risk Assessment, which further evaluated the District’s vulnerability to climate change impacts, and the effects those impacts may have on infrastructure, community assets and the city’s most vulnerable populations.
“The scientific research behind the draft Climate Ready DC plan shows increased storms, flooding, and extreme heat in the District impacting our most vulnerable residents and neighborhoods disproportionately,” said Courtney Snowden, deputy mayor for greater economic opportunity. “We must ensure all of our citizens are resilient in the face of climate change; your comments on this draft plan will help to make sure we are prioritizing the actions most important to our residents in all eight Wards.”
Climate Ready DC also includes 74 actions the District must take to ensure the safety and prosperity of communities in the face of a changing climate. Over the next 45 days, DOEE will hold a series of public meetings, tours, and webinars to share the District’s plan to prepare for severe weather, the sea level rise, extreme heat, flooding and other climate change-related events.