Ky. Voices: Lexington should join effort to deal with extreme weather

Rick Clewett is a professor emeritus at Eastern Kentucky University.
Rick Clewett is a professor emeritus at Eastern Kentucky University.

We need to start seriously assessing what we will need to do to deal with the increasing frequency and severity of extreme weather events.

We are already seeing the trends and have every reason to believe they will accelerate.

Several weeks ago, when the Resilient Communities for America Agreement was unveiled, it had already been signed by 45 mayors of major cities throughout the country, including Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer.

It is a call to action for local governments to share innovative responses to weather, energy and economic challenges.

Why shouldn't Lexington sign on, too?

As Jason Hartke, vice president of national policy at the U.S. Green Building Council, said, "Leading local governments understand that focusing on preparedness is incredibly cost-effective ... For every $1 spent on disaster preparedness, a community can save $4 in avoided costs." And it can also save avoidable suffering and loss of life and quality of life.

The agreement focuses on these major areas:

Climate preparedness

■ Evaluating local vulnerabilities to extreme weather and a changing climate, from heat waves and air pollution to droughts and floods.

■ Adopting and implementing preparedness policies that protect vulnerable populations and natural resources from extreme weather and other climate impacts.

■ Reducing the community's carbon footprint to help reverse climate change and avoid the costs of adapting to more severe climate impacts.

Energy security

■ Transitioning to a renewable energy future to achieve greater energy independence, protect communities from price spikes and ensure more reliable power during heat waves and other disruptions.

■ Implementing energy efficiency programs that help residents, businesses and municipal government save money and energy, lower carbon emissions and reduce demand on the grid during severe weather events.

Infrastructure renewal

■ Investing in upgrades to community facilities to safely serve the needs of changing communities decades into the future.

■ Creating new models to finance improvements and manage risks to community assets through engagement with the private sector.

■ Harnessing innovations in information technology and green infrastructure to optimize performance and reduce costs through more efficient operation.

Economic prosperity

■ Retaining and attracting investment by safeguarding businesses from extreme weather and ensuring reliable access to energy, water and other key resources.

■ Supporting the private sector in creating more diversified local economies that are more resilient to economic downturns, through job creation in sectors such as clean energy, advanced manufacturing and local agriculture.

Last year, the Urban County Government approved a plan, Empower Lexington, to reduce the amount of energy used by the government and citizens through voluntary measures, and thus reduce the county's carbon footprint,

However, that plan does not deal directly with what we need to do to handle the increasing frequency and severity of extreme weather that we are already experiencing and that will become more threatening over the coming decades.

Signing onto the Resilient Communities for America Agreement could help us focus our attention on this important task and allow us to collaborate with and learn from the growing number of other American cities and local governments who have also signed.

This will be only the beginning of the effort, but it will be a useful first step and we need to begin.

Read the full agreement at www.resilientamerica.org/join-the-leaders.