White House Champions of Change Event Features Community Resilience Leaders

April 11, 2013 | 5:58 pm
Rachel Cleetus
Policy Director

Today’s “Champions of Change” event in Washington can be seen as a kick-off for a desperately-needed national conversation on climate change. It couldn’t have had a more fitting theme: “Preparing for the Costly Impacts of Climate Change – Community Resilience Leaders.”

Community resilience leaders being honored at the White House Champions of Change event. Credit: Chrissy Elles, UCS

The 2012-2013 Drought in America and the coastal flooding caused by Hurricane Sandy are just two recent examples of extreme weather events that have had a devastatingly costly effect on Americans. Recent estimates from the insurance industry put economic costs at $65-70 billion for Sandy and $35 billion (so far) for the drought.

For the most part, we’ve dealt with these events in a reactionary way, as if they were discrete unconnected emergencies. It’s time for a different approach—one that takes a more considered long-term and comprehensive look at our risks and exposure to climate impacts, and helps prepare for and contain those risks as much as possible.

And who better to guide that conversation than folks who are helping build resilient communities all across the country right now?

One of those people is Dr. Jennifer Jurado, the Natural Resources Management and Planning Director of Broward County. Dr. Jurado’s current work focuses on water resource management in a part of Florida where sea-level rise is already a serious problem and there is a growing risk of intrusion of salt water into local groundwater aquifers.

Dr. Jurado played an active role in the Southeast Florida Climate Compact, formed by Broward, Miami-Dade, Monroe, and Palm Beach Counties in January 2010 to coordinate mitigation and adaptation activities across county lines. They are at the forefront of coastal communities that are recognizing their climate risks and stepping up to respond, as evidenced by their recent climate action plan.

Another is Caroline Lewis, the founder and executive director of the CLEO Institute, based in Pinecrest Gardens, FL. The Institute’s mission is furthering climate science education. Its Climate Project seeks to build a large interdisciplinary and multi-format conversation around the subject of climate change. Listen to Caroline’s response to the question: What is climate change all about, and what’s my role?

My colleague, Chrissy Elles, attended the event today and sent me some of her thoughts and photos:

Jennifer Jurado, Chrissy Elles and Caroline Lewis at the White House Champions of Change event. Credit: Chrissy Elles, UCS

From professional snowboarder Jeremy Jones, the founder of Protect Our Winters, to Kimberly Hill Knott of Detroit Climate Action Collaborative, to Florida’s Dr. Jennifer Jurado and Caroline Lewis, it was wonderful to be at the White House today to honor 12 community leaders working on the front lines of climate change. These community leaders understand the costly consequences of a warming world and are rolling up their sleeves to make our communities stronger, safer, and more resilient to the impacts of climate change. This is hard work, and these community leaders can’t do it alone: we need national action on climate change. With the president’s recent statements calling for climate action in both his Inaugural address and the State of the Union, I hope we will see national action on climate change—such as standards to limit carbon pollution from power plants—as soon as possible.