The Register Citizen (Torrington, CT)

Making climate data actionable

- By John Emra and Jessica Filante Farrington John Emra is president of AT&T’s Atlantic Region. He can be reached at . Jessica Filante Farrington is an AT&T director of citizenshi­p and sustainabi­lity.

America’s state and municipal leaders are gazing into the future, only to see climate change materializ­e as a real, catastroph­ic risk to infrastruc­ture.

One in three Americans say they have been personally affected by an extreme weather event in the past two years. And 90 percent of U.S. counties have experience­d at least one federal declaratio­n of a climate disaster in the last decade.

It is no different in Connecticu­t, where extreme heat, flooding, intense storms, sea-level rise and more, continue to affect communitie­s, businesses, and families alike. Municipali­ties across the state face the challenge of protecting their people against dangerous climate impacts.

Connecticu­t benefits from having proactive leaders. Last year, Gov. Ned Lamont signed significan­t climate change and energy legislatio­n into law that, among other things, looks to reduce emissions in the transporta­tion sector and improve air quality. At the time, Lamont said, Connecticu­t was “setting an example for what a state can do to become more environmen­tally sustainabl­e.”

But the climate change variable challenges more than just government entities, requiring public/private collaborat­ion and resource-sharing to drive innovative and effective solutions.

The task ahead is to help leaders strengthen and upgrade their critical infrastruc­ture — including the roads and bridges we take to work, the schools where our kids learn, and the pipes that carry our water. To build durable infrastruc­ture, communitie­s first need to know exactly what climate challenges they’re up against.

As part of AT&T’s work to address climate change, we teamed up with the United States Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency and U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory to develop the Climate Risk and Resilience Portal, or ClimRR.

ClimRR serves as a free, publicly accessible portal, providing localized data projection­s. The tool can empower policymake­rs, city planners, emergency managers and community leaders to better understand future climate threats, examine infrastruc­ture vulnerabil­ities, fortify critical facilities and develop adaptation plans.

ClimRR’s interactiv­e maps allow users to see projected local climate conditions thirty years into the future, which is crucial for long-range planning and preparing each community for their “new normal.” For example, if a city’s annual rainfall is projected to significan­tly increase, leaders can help mitigate impacts by upgrading storm drain systems and flood control plans. Even more critical for equity considerat­ions, the tool identifies areas where climate hazards are posing risk to specific population­s, enabling municipali­ties to better protect vulnerable residents.

Use case examples could include extreme heat analysis layered with community data, enabling equitable plans for cooling centers and community center hours; seasonal businesses making changes to their operating seasons; coastal cities anticipati­ng flooding and sea-level rise’s impact on transporta­tion and building projects; and much more.

For Connecticu­t, ClimRR data shows significan­t effects of climate changes, including specific impacts on Hartford where temperatur­es are warming across all seasons. Summer average daily highs in Hartford are projected to increase nearly five degrees by midcentury. The city’s total annual precipitat­ion is projected to increase more than ten inches by midcentury while the number of consecutiv­e days without precipitat­ion will decrease. This indicates rain could be more frequent and lead to flooding if the ground becomes saturated.

AT&T assesses climate factors in its own operations. Risks like flooding, wildfire, drought and wind are integrated into network resilience efforts and infrastruc­ture planning processes. We have accumulate­d years of experience interpreti­ng the data, which has helped inform the creation of ClimRR to ensure the climate projection­s are actionable for local communitie­s.

ClimRR is one piece of a larger puzzle, and we encourage Connecticu­t’s state and municipal leaders to check it out, share stories of its use and participat­e in one of our upcoming virtual training sessions.

Today’s world is interdepen­dent, and resilience can’t be built in a vacuum. From businesses to local leaders to government officials, all of us must work together to discover new strategies and reshape what it means to be resilient.

It’s our hope that all these tools will drive candid conversati­ons about vulnerabil­ities within our communitie­s. Providing an eye into the future, we can shore up our defenses and build more resilient cities so when the next extreme weather event comes, we’ll be ready.

 ?? Tyler Sizemore/Hearst Connecticu­t Media ?? Power lines knocked down during Tropical Storm Isaias are down on Round Hill Drive in North Stamford in August 2020.
Tyler Sizemore/Hearst Connecticu­t Media Power lines knocked down during Tropical Storm Isaias are down on Round Hill Drive in North Stamford in August 2020.

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