Georgetown Law

Vicki Arroyo

Washington Post: In major shift, Obama administration will plan for rising seas in all federal projects


In a Washington Post story by Juliet Eilperin, Vicki Arroyo comments on a new executive order by President Obama that will direct "federal agencies–as well as state and local governments drawing on federal funds–to adopt stricter building and siting standards to reflect scientific projections that future flooding will be more frequent and intense due to climate change."

The new standard gives agencies three options for establishing the flood elevation and hazard area they use in siting, design, and construction of federal projects.  They can use data and methods “informed by best-available, actionable climate science”; build two feet above the 100-year flood elevation for standard projects, and three feet above for critical buildings like hospitals and evacuation centers; or build to the 500-year flood elevation.


In an interview, Georgetown Climate Center executive director Vicki Arroyo said the new policy “a positive step to be more prepared for the threat that we’re already facing from rising sea levels and more intense storms.”

“We have to start applying what the science is telling us, and what we’re seeing from recent events, to investment decisions and codes and standards—ideally at all levels of government,” Arroyo said.

Central Texas To Launch First Regional Effort To Prepare Communities For Climate Impacts


Georgetown Climate Center Executive Director Vicki Arroyo will share a national perspective of adaptation solutions to climate change in a keynote address on Friday, October 4 at the University of Texas at Austin. Arroyo’s remarks will inform the first regional planning effort in central Texas to help communities prepare for extreme heat, drought, wildfires, and other climate change impacts affecting the region.

The event, entitled "Climate Resilience and Adaptation Strategies," is co-sponsored by the Georgetown Climate Center and will assess the shared climate challenges central Texas communities face and provide an opportunity to identify collaborative solutions to make the region more resilient. Arroyo will describe innovative efforts different states and cities are taking to prepare for dangerous climate impacts and provide lessons learned from effective regional collaborations.

This new focus on climate preparedness in central Texas comes as the state endures the second-worst drought in its history, according to State Climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon. Seventy percent of Texans believe climate change happening and more than half have experienced and are worried about the impacts. More than half of Texans also support government action on climate change.

By mid-century, central Texas is projected to experience a 50 percent increase in 100-degree days, a 15 percent decrease of summer precipitation, and a 10 to 20 percent decrease in surface water as a result, according to UT-Austin climate scientist Kerry Cook. Hotter, drier conditions are the new normal for Texas, underscoring the importance of acting now to adapt.

The conference, hosted by the Center for Politics and Governance at UT-Austin’s LBJ School of Public Affairs, will bring together key stakeholders throughout central Texas to learn about the region’s climate vulnerability and discuss how to strengthen local policies and planning efforts to become more resilient. These efforts can build on existing plans by the city of Austin to reduce carbon emissions through 2020 that include using more renewable energy, more cleaner-powered vehicles, and greater energy efficiency. Event organizers include Adaptation International, the Texas Drought Project, the Institute for Sustainable Communities, and graduate students at UT-Austin.

To learn more about the event, please visit


The Georgetown Climate Center is a leading resource on policies that seek to both mitigate and prepare for climate changes.  Its widely used Adaptation Clearinghouse contains more than 1,000 adaptation resources for policymakers.

Washington Post: After Sandy, New York Aims to Fortify Itself Against Next Big Storm, Climate Change


Reporter Lenny Bernstein chats with Vicki Arroyo and Jessica Grannis of the Georgetown Climate Center for an in-depth look at some of New York's leading resiliency efforts following Hurricane Sandy.

Under a $19.5 billion blueprint released last month, New York outlined plans to fortify itself not only against the next big storm but against seas that scientists say could rise 2 1/2 feet by the 2050s and other climate-related challenges, including heat waves....

“It’s not rocket science. A lot of these things are things we do already,” said Jessica Grannis, adaptation program manager at the Georgetown Climate Center at Georgetown University Law Center, a clearinghouse for information on such preparations. “It’s just tailoring them to a changed future.”

Click here to read the full story.

NY Times: Bloomberg Seeks to Redo Building Code in Sandy’s Wake


New York Times reporter Mireya Navarro highlights New York City's proposed changes to building codes in response to Hurricane Sandy.  The changes are considered some of the most sweeping in the nation.

Vicki Arroyo, executive director of the Georgetown Climate Center in Washington, a group that assists cities in adapting to climate change, said that taken as a whole, the proposals were the most significant in the nation.

Ms. Arroyo said that other cities had strengthened building codes after major storms but that New York’s approach was more comprehensive, covering a wide range of things, like storm-water management and emergency power supplies. New York is also addressing a broader range of issues because of its unique stock of skyscrapers.

“This is more forward-looking than anything I’ve seen,” she said.

Read the full story here.


Washington Lawyer: "The Cost of Doing Nothing"


Washington Lawyer's cover story for May 2013, "The Cost of Doing Nothing," highlights the impact that climate change is already having in the U.S., and the important role that Hurricane Sandy is having on public perceptions about the issue.

Vicki Arroyo, executive director of the Georgetown Climate Center, discussed the issue with reporter Sarah Kellogg and underscored the important steps forward that many states are taking to prepare for climate changes.

"We've seen an interest on the state level in adaptation and resilience, even in states that are not that progressive on climate policy," says Vicki Arroyo, executive director of the Georgetown Climate Center at Georgetown University Law Center and a visiting professor of law. "Even if they're not at the forefront in terms of pushing clean energy or mitigating greenhouse gases, they are about adaptation planning."


"More and more, everyone is having to adapt in real time," Arroyo says.  "Some states are looking at the need to change their way of life.  They acknowledge that sea levels are rising even if state policies [are] not."

To read the full article, please visit the Washington Lawyer website by clicking here.

Washington Post: Climate change could burn a hole in the government’s finances, GAO says


With climate change resulting in more extreme storms and damage to crops, bridges, and other infrastructure, the federal government took steps to recognize the large financial risks it now faces.  The risk poised by climate change toped a biennial list of federal programs at high risk of waste, fraud, abuse or financial loss issued by the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

Vicki Arroyo, executive director of the Georgetown Climate Center, was quoted in a Washington Post story about new GAO report.

“It’s another sign that it’s finally sinking in that this is the new normal, that sea level, extreme weather and the impact of climate change is something that’s going to cost us both today and long into the future,” said Vicki Arroyo, executive director of the Georgetown Climate Center.

Click here to read the full story.

NPR: What to Do About Climate Change


The Georgetown Climate Center's Vicki Arroyo and Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication, recently discussed changing public opinions and prospects for new policy actions to address climate change on the National Public Radio program "On Point."

Click play below to listen to the Dec. 6 program.



What Actions Can Obama—And Congress— Take on Climate Change During the Next Four Years?


The Georgetown Climate Center's Vicki Arroyo recently joined Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Eric Pooley from the Environmental Defense Fund, and Bill Becker from the Presidential Climate Action Project to discuss what President Obama and Congress can do on climate change in the next four years. The event was hosted by The Climate Desk.

Watch video of the event below:

Huffington Post: Preparing for Future Disasters in the Wake of Sandy


In the wake of super storm Sandy and last week's national election, there is a growing call for elected leaders and policy makers to once again more aggressively prepare for and mitigate climate changes. This week, the Climate Center's Vicki Arroyo added to that important drumbeat, calling on a newly re-elected President Obama to take actions in his second term to help us prepare for extreme storms and other climate change impacts.

In an opinion piece to the Huffington Post, Arroyo specifically called for the president to lead by following through with steps his administration began during its first term.  These steps include releasing federal agency reports that identify vulnerabilities to climate change and explain how federal agencies can adapt and moving forward with EPA regulations of greenhouse gas pollution from large stationary sources.

She also urged the president to work with Congress in a bipartisan manner during his second term to:

1.     Pass new legislation that allows FEMA and the federal government to support efforts to prepare for and adapt to the effects of climate change-instead of just responding after the fact to disasters like heat waves, droughts and floods. 

2.     Amend the Stafford Act, the underlying disaster statute, to explicitly direct FEMA to support communities' efforts to rebuild differently or relocate vulnerable homes after a storm.

3.     Put a price on carbon emissions.

Read Arroyo's full commentary on Huffington Post

Mother Jones: "What Obama Can Do on Climate Change"


Chris Mooney of Mother Jones discusses the prospects for climate action and leadership in Obama's second term in office. His piece revolves around five key ideas: 1) Use the bully pulpit, 2) Promote climate resilience, 3) Eliminate climate change accelerants, 4) Unleash the EPA, and 5) Restart the conversation about pricing carbon—without cutting off the EPA.

In the piece, he also shared some thoughts by the Center's Vicki Arroyo on some of the changes and opportunities for action on climate resilience.

"Traditionally, FEMA flood maps have been geared to a 100-year flood based on historic record, rather than looking forward based on climate projections," says Vicki Arroyo, executive director of the Georgetown Climate Center. In other words, FEMA still bases its planning on the planet of the past, rather than the planet of future in which vulnerability is increasing, rather than staying static.

New legislation passed in June took steps towards modernizing the program, and promoting climate planning—but that's just the beginning. The flood insurance program went into considerable debt after Hurricane Katrina, and that's likely to happen again after Sandy—meaning Congress will have to raise its flood "debt ceiling," so to speak. "In the context of that," Arroyo says, "ideally you would also see some funds that promote preparation in the future, rather than just dealing with things in 'disaster mode.'"

Of course, FEMA is just one of many federal agencies that need to modernize in the face of climate change—from the US Army Corps of Engineers to the Department of Transportation, the infrastructure and programs that will be impacted by climate are massive. In 2009, Obama issued an executive order requiring every federal agency to assess its vulnerability to climate change (e.g., low-lying highways, bridges, and other infrastructure). But these reports have not yet been released—in fact, Arroyo charges that they have already been written, but are being held up. Now that he has won reelection, it's past time for Obama to put them out. "That I hope will be a starting point, looking at the government's own buildings and infrastructure," says Arroyo.

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