ogy, and transportation. Adaptation strategies tend to focus on infrastructure (roads, bridges, ports, and coastal development), water (conservation, supply, and management), disaster preparation, and public health and safety concerns. Not surprisingly, many local policy makers are searching for initiatives that address both limiting emissions and adaptation, such as land use planning, distributive energy systems, open space preservation, and green space development.
Some of these strategies are already functions of local government, including comprehensive planning, building and energy codes, neighborhood outreach, equipment purchasing, and infrastructure planning and development. Others are new to local government, including involvement in markets for GHGs, carbon taxes, or ways to pilot the development of new technologies and energy sources, where the economics of resource allocations are less clear.
One of the most significant resource allocation questions is how to address the challenge of the nation’s infrastructure and the barriers it poses to both emissions reduction and adaptation. Power generation, transport, protected areas, water resources, and urban development are the result of major infrastructural investments that have locked the nation into pathways and patterns of high GHG emissions and vulnerabilities to the impacts of climate change. Infrastructure may be the nation’s greatest barrier and, as discussed below, its most powerful opportunity to limit emissions and adapt to climate change. Decision makers must consider whether to replace this infrastructure now or over longer periods of replacement and reinvestment, and whether to prevent the building of new infrastructure that increases climate risks.
As climate change policy is addressed, decision makers must also decide how quickly to implement new policy. This choice is especially challenging given both the general need for more and better scaled information on climate change and its impacts, and also the uncertainties associated with new energy development. Decision makers are wary of making wrong choices, such as picking the wrong technology or building the wrong “infrastructure of the future.” On the other hand, many policy makers have embraced the idea that taking action to respond to climate change is urgent and that they play a vital role in catalyzing change through successful policy action, even providing inspiration for other decision makers to take action. Thus, some policy makers are innovating new decision making processes that embrace failure as an element of future success and evaluate the benefits of being “first movers” in the development of new technologies, models of action, and policy.
Economic information such as costs and benefits of different actions, return on investments and avoided damages, and distributional and competitive effects on local economies, firms, and households is essential to such resource allocation decisions.