The Trump Administration has disbanded an advisory committee created to turn federal climate analysis into concrete plans for dealing with climate change.
Jessica Whitehead of the North Carolina Sea Grant had been one of 15 members of the Advisory Committee for the Sustained National Climate Assessment. That report is broad and dense, and difficult to apply to action on a local level without help.
Whitehead worries losing this panel will limit small communities’ ability to design effective systems to cope with the effects of climate change, like extreme heat and flooding.
“If you only get one shot every 20 to 30 years to upgrade your infrastructure, if you only get one shot every 50 years to upgrade your infrastructure, you have to upgrade it for the future, not for the past,” Whitehead said.
The Administration says it still will release a National Climate Assessment. But Whitehead says it will be hard for small communities to make use of the information in that report.
She said many vulnerable communities have specific needs, and small budgets. That's why they need good information to make their infrastructure investments count.
“If you are trying to make decisions in Swansboro about how you're going to manage land use, you don't necessarily need to know about what the overall precipitation change is going to be from Louisiana to Virginia,” she said. “You need to know what it's going to look like in Coastal Eastern North Carolina.”
She added that communities that can afford private consultants to guide infrastructure design might fare better.
“A lot of the communities that I work with in Eastern North Carolina really can't afford to pay a private consultant to help them use this information, and those are the communities that I fear very much will lose out,” she said.