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National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences

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Federal Web-based System Helps Local Governments Customize Climate Change Adaptation Strategies

photo of Joel Scheraga

Joel Scheraga, Ph.D., EPA Senior Advisor for Climate Adaptation.
(Photo courtesy of EPA)

A frequent challenge faced by state and local government officials, including public health officials, is limited capacity to locate relevant data and guidance for climate change adaptation planning. To help build this capacity, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has developed the Climate Change Adaptation Resource Center (ARC-X). The ARC-X system allows users to explore ways to strengthen resilience to climate change impacts on a range of public health and environmental issues, such as air quality, extreme heat, and water and waste management.

Decision makers can use ARC-X to obtain an integrated package of information tailored specifically to their needs and issues of concern based on where they live. The system provides a complete package of information that includes insights about the implications of climate change in their region and community; adaptation strategies to address risks posed by climate change; case studies illustrating how other localities with similar concerns have successfully adapted and instructions on how to replicate their successful efforts; tools available to help implement adaptation strategies; training modules; and sources of funding from the EPA and other federal agencies.

For users particularly interested in the intersection of climate change and public health ARC-X offers a collection of case studies, which provide methods for addressing environmental public health stressors such as rising temperatures or increased extreme weather events. Many of the tools, such as the Green Infrastructure Wizard (GIWiz) and the Integrated Climate and Land Use Scenarios (ICLUS), present valuable data in planning for climate change threats with health as the focus. In addition, the EPA has developed several self-guided online training modules to assist with capacity building in local governments and communities. The available modules cover climate change impacts on environmental and public health services, land and emergency management, and water resources, and provide examples of relevant adaptation measures.

The flexibility of ARC-X as a model for local governments and communities to customize strategies to build resilience to climate change is a strength of the system. The University of Indiana created and launched the Environmental Resilience Institute Toolkit (ERIT) in 2018 to assist local to assist local governments in the Midwest with climate change adaptation activities. This toolkit, modeled after ARC-X, provides a wider array of environmental and public health topics relevant to small- to mid-sized communities in the Midwest region. Some of the localized areas of interest include rural agriculture, vector-borne diseases, and alternative and renewable energy sources. Decision makers have already begun using the ERIT system. For example, Mayor Denny Spinner of Huntingburg, Indiana, used the ERIT state-level version of ARC-X to evaluate options for preparing for flooding and stormwater drainage issues. The University at Albany is in the early stages of developing a New York State version of ARC-X and is also pursuing work to support resilience planning in Puerto Rico. Several other state-level versions are under development.

“A major goal we have at the EPA is to help all 40,000 communities across the U.S. anticipate, prepare for, and adapt to extreme weather events and climate change,” noted EPA Senior Advisor for Climate Adaptation Joel Scheraga, Ph.D. “The ARC-X system supports local government officials in every community, including public health officials, from those with extensive experience and expertise dealing with the impacts of extreme events, to those working in communities just beginning to meet those challenges. The goal is to help ensure localities continue to protect public health and the environment now and in the future.”

While ARC-X is primarily intended to be used by communities in the U.S., federally recognized tribes, and territories, Scheraga noted that the system is regularly accessed by users around the globe.