Sink or Swim: How Can D.C. Adapt to Climate Change?

Climate Classes joined forces with Lost City Books on Thursday, February 24, 2022, for a panel discussion about the direct and social impacts of climate change on the community in the greater Washington region.  We were joined by Jenn Hatch from the District of Columbia’s Department of Energy and Environment (DOEE), Sarah Kogel-Smucker of the Office of the People’s Counsel for the District of Columbia, Selma Khalil from Sunrise DC, and Richard Dooley from the Arlington Initiative to Rethink Energy (AIRE).  The panelists addressed the occurring and anticipated effects of climate change in the Washington, DC, Maryland, and Virginia (DMV) region.  Here, you can find a few key takeaways from the discussion: 

  • On extreme heat days, there is often a 17-degree temperature difference between the Wards of Washington, D.C., meaning that some neighborhoods experience heat emergencies during high temperature events.  You can learn more about where you live in the District of Columbia, here.
  • Mitigation and adaptation are two distinct responses to climate change.  Mitigation in climate policy aims to reduce carbon emissions, to lessen the likelihood that either climate change is going to occur or to lessen the severity of climate change.  For example, increasing energy efficiency reduces the demand on the energy grid during extreme temperatures.  Adaptation, on the other hand, is acknowledging that climate change is here and implementing policies that help communities to manage its impacts.  Those policies attempt to ensure resiliency, such as backup power generators for the energy grid to ensure a continuity of operation can take place in critical facilities such as hospitals. 
  • Community Resilience Hubs are intended to support climate resilience in climate-vulnerable neighborhoods, such as the Watts Branch tributary in Ward 7.  In the event of severe weather events, these locations are set up to provide refrigeration for food, cell phone charging, and other communication needs during power outages. 
  • Environmental work can go beyond strictly environmental objectives.  Mutual aid work is a key component to Sunrise DC’s multifaceted mission.  The group works to repair and make communities whole through various objectives, including ensuring equal access to jobs and healthcare and abolishing oppressive systems alongside their climate change initiatives.  The group believes that the issues, and therefore the solutions, to these issues are intertwined and so must be approached simultaneously. 

You can watch the recording over on Lost City Book’s YouTube Page