Climate Positive

Alice Hill | Building climate resilience

Episode Summary

In this episode, we speak with Alice Hill, senior fellow for energy and the environment at the Council on Foreign Relations, and author of the upcoming book, The Fight for Climate After COVID-19. As a former federal prosecutor, judge, special assistant to President Barack Obama, and senior director for resilience policy on the National Security Council, Alice has a unique and powerful perspective on the risks, consequences, and responses associated with climate change. In conversation with Gil and Hilary, she discusses her journey in becoming an expert on catastrophic risk and climate resilience, which countries are doing well on climate adaptation, and where the U.S. government is falling short Additionally, Alice talks about what the pandemic can teach us about fighting climate change, how the democratization of data could improve climate security for the world’s most vulnerable populations, how she finds joy in her work, and more.

Episode Notes

In this episode, we speak with Alice Hill, senior fellow for energy and the environment at the Council on Foreign Relations, and author of the upcoming book, The Fight for Climate After COVID-19. As a former federal prosecutor, judge, special assistant to President Barack Obama, and senior director for resilience policy on the National Security Council, Alice has a unique and powerful perspective on the risks, consequences, and responses associated with climate change. In conversation with Gil and Hilary, she discusses her journey in becoming an expert on catastrophic risk and climate resilience, which countries are doing well on climate adaptation, and where the U.S. government is falling short. Additionally, Alice talks about what the pandemic can teach us about fighting climate change, how the democratization of data could improve climate security for the world’s most vulnerable populations, how she finds joy in her work, and more. 

Episode recorded July 13, 2021 


Alice Hill on Twitter

OpEd: Climate adaptation: The gaping hole in American environmental policy (Alice Hill and Chris Field, The Hill, April 15, 2021)

Article: COVID’s lesson for climate research: go local (Alice C. Hill, Nature, June 29, 2021)

Book: The Fight for Climate after COVID-19” (Alice C. Hill, released August 4, 2021)

Book: Building a Resilient Tomorrow (Alice C. Hill and Leonardo Martinez-Diaz, 2019)


Show contributors: Gil Jenkins, Hilary Langer, Alice Hill

Episode Transcription

Alice Hill: I wake up every morning excited about what am I going to learn about climate change today? What are we going to be able to do to try to influence people to have better choices in the future? It just feels like an opportunity.

Chad Reed: Welcome to the episode six of Climate Positive, a podcast produced by Hannon Armstrong, a leading investor in climate solutions. I'm Chad Reed.

Hilary Langer: I'm Hilary Langer.

Gil Jenkins: I’m Gil Jenkins

Chad Reed: In this series, we strive for candid conversations with the leaders, innovators, and changemakers who are driving a climate positive future

In this episode, we speak with Alice Hill, senior fellow for energy and the environment at the Council on Foreign Relations, and author of the upcoming book, The Fight for Climate After COVID-19.

As a former federal prosecutor, judge, special assistant to President Barack Obama, and senior director for resilience policy on the National Security Council, Alice has a unique and powerful perspective on the risks, consequences, and responses associated with climate change. 

In today’s conversation, Alice discusses her journey in becoming an expert on catastrophic risk and climate resilience, which countries are doing well on climate adaptation, and where the U.S. government is falling short.

Additionally, Alice talks about what the pandemic can teach us about fighting climate change, how the democratization of data could improve climate security for the world’s most vulnerable populations, how she finds joy in her work, and more. With that, here is Gil Jenkins and Hilary Langer in conversation with Alice Hill.

Gil Jenkins: Alice, welcome to Climate Positive.

Alice Hill: Thank you for having me. Delighted to be here.

Gil: I want to start with the term "climate resilience" which is banded about a lot, it has a lot of different definitions. Can you tell our listeners how you define the term, number one? Number two, how did you come to devote your professional focus towards this important issue?

Alice: Well, you're right. Resilience is a mushy term, and that's probably why it's so attractive and it just exploded in recent decades in its usage. When I speak about climate change and resilience, I'm referring to the capacity of a community to reduce, absorb, and recover from the impacts of climate change. It's really focused on that ability to get back to where we were, and hopefully, be better off in the future.

Gil: How did you get into this?

Alice: It was really happenstance. In 2008, I was a judge in Los Angeles County. I knew that I was interested in working on a full range of issues because I'd had that opportunity as a judge, but late in 2008, my phone rang, and on the other end was Janet Napolitano who was to become secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. She asked me simply, would I like to come to Washington, so I agreed to do so. The reason she knew me was that we had been in law school together, so that is my career advice, be nice to those who sit next to you in law school.


Alice: She invited me to join her very shortly after I got to this huge sprawling agency. Of course, DHS was born out of the events of 9/11. It has a deep anti-terrorism focus, but it also includes the Coast Guard, the Federal Emergency Management Administration, Border Patrol, all sorts of missions. President Obama in 2009 signed an executive order requiring all federal agencies to engage in climate planning, both cutting emissions but for the first time, adaptation planning. No one really wanted that assignment at that time. Climate change was not viewed as a career enhancer so essentially, it was, "Oh, give it to her, she's new."

I decided it was an opportunity for me to learn about climate change. I did not know much more than what I'd read in the newspaper or heard on the news. We gathered a task force and looked closely at the issue. That's when I began to understand that climate change would affect every system that we rely upon, whether it's natural or human-made, and that unless we prepared those systems, we were at grave risk, but we would still need to make sure that we could bounce back in the face of worsening climate impacts like wildfires, floods, droughts, the extremes that we are currently experiencing already, and which of course will get worse over time.

Gil: I want to come back to your time in the Obama administration, but let's fast forward really to last year. You co-authored a book Building a Resilient Tomorrow: How to Prepare for the Coming Climate Disruption, which really offered a pragmatic guide to both the gradual and revolutionary climate resilience solutions communities are deploying around the world. Could you share a little bit more with our listeners on what you found to be the most promising solutions as outlined in the book?

Alice: Sure. The book I co-authored with Leo Martinez-Diaz, who's currently in the Biden administration, he was in the Obama administration as well, and he's a climate finance expert. As we looked at how these climate impacts were already unfolding and would unfold in the future, we realized that they would affect all systems, as I've said. We wanted to examine what could we do to improve the resilience of those systems.

Thick buildings, all of our buildings rest on the assumption that the future will resemble the past so we build them to withstand the highest wind speeds we've seen, the biggest day deluges we've seen, the highest temperatures experienced, but it turns out that that assumption of a stable climate is no longer a good one. The climate that we've had is not our climate going forward.

If we keep building as we have, those structures will fail. That's what we're already seeing happen across the globe. We need to rethink, how do we construct stronger buildings that will perform in the face of these damaging events? Do we build in the same places that we've built in the past? They may be, and probably some of them will be at risk of severe flooding from either sea-level rise, storm surge, riverine flooding from these extreme rain events that emergency managers call rain bombs because so much rain falls at once. These are new experiences for us, and what we have can't hold up. That was an easy place to focus because if we get that right, it helps communities thrive going forward.

Gil: Is there one country or municipality that you think is an early adopter, and really gets it, and could be a model for other communities facing climate disruption?

Alice: The most commonly cited leader in this space is the Netherlands. Of course, they face an existential risk from climate change. At least a quarter of their landmass is below sea level, and as sea level rise continues, they'll suffer greater flooding. They also had a number of flood events that seared the need for preparation in the Dutch brain. In 1953, a nighttime flood killed many thousands in their sleep. Then in the 1990s, there were more severe flooding. Now, I believe it's in February of every year, the nation recognizes the Water Emergency Day so that everyone can think about water preparedness. The Netherlands plans for the 1-in-10,000-year flood.

In the United States, we're at the 1-in-100-year flood. With both of those measures, of course, it's changing because big flood events are becoming more frequent, but 1 in 10,000 years gives you a lot of buffer against a catastrophic event that would harm you. They also have embraced deeply inclusive planning, and the Dutch have embraced adaptive planning. They build a dyke or a seawall at a certain level with plans that it could be heightened or improved as conditions worsen if they go beyond the current expectations of what will occur in the near future.

Gil: Your book also, I think, talked about actions individuals can take to manage the consequences of climate change and build more resilient households. Could you share on your research what are the top actions that individuals can take?

Alice: One of the number one risks that we should all be thinking about is what is the risk our families face? Our polling shows that although many Americans, over 70%, recognize that climate change is a risk, as you start drilling down and asking them, "Is it a risk to your community?" the numbers drop, "Is it a risk to your family?" the numbers drop. Then you ask, "Is it a risk to you?" and the numbers drop even lower, below 50%. That shows you that we're all optimists.

We need optimism to survive, but that optimism is hurting us in terms of understanding what is our wildfire risk if we're living in this wild land, urban interface, which is where we all like to live. If we don't like to live next to the water, we like to live in a near forest, but those areas are now greatly at risk of wildfire. In fact, about a third of our nation lives in those areas so what is your wildfire risk? What's your flood risk? What's your risk of extreme heat that's occurring this summer in very dramatic fashion?

Inform yourself about your own risk. Some of these risks, we can't prepare for ourselves. It's going to take community-wide, probably government action. For that, I say we all need to talk about climate change more. We need to ask, why our media reports are not tying the current events that we are experiencing today to climate change? The scientists have now very quickly can attribute how much worse a heatwave is as a result of climate change.

I read recently this heatwave, I think, it worsened by 150% because of climate change. I could be off on that, but the attribution science is there. Why aren't we talking about this is our new world, it's going to get worse, what are we doing about, and most importantly in a democracy, what are our elected leaders doing to help us prepare?

Gil: Damn right. I want to jump back to building standards. You have discussed the importance of building standards to account for the risks of climate change. You've also, I think, talked about when looking at government leadership, restricting federal financial support for development in high-risk areas. How do you think we address the issue of convincing local governments to take climate seriously enough and for the federal government to play hardball there with investments in high-risk areas that are challenged by our climate picture?

Alice: Well, because of our constitutional government, we have created a system where state and local decision-makers could make decisions that aren't so wise in the face of climate change. That's because state and local governments, tribal governments get to decide pretty much where and how people build, but that becomes critically important when you're trying to avoid harm from climate impacts.

The federal government, in my opinion, has a huge role to play in encouraging better decision-makings. Now, we understand why local governments might want to allow development in risk areas. It's tax dollars. It's politically of interest to them as to who might be giving them donations. Politically, it satisfies many in the community, but those decisions mean that ultimately, the federal government may have to pay when the bad event, a drought, a wildfire, a huge storm hits, and people are harmed.

The federal government, in my opinion, should take advantage of what we know about investing in risk reduction. That is that for every dollar we spend on reducing risk by building a home higher, making it more resistant to high winds, avoiding development in areas that are going to flood, we can save anywhere from six-- and the latest estimate is $13 in recovery expense. That's a huge cost-benefit return for investments in avoiding risk.

The federal government can provide incentives to local governments to make better decisions that take advantage of that cost-benefit analysis. They can also just say the federal government could, and in my opinion should say, "Look, local government. If you want to make these risky decisions, don't expect that other federal taxpayers will subsidize it. We're not going to tell you, you can't do this, but we are going to tell you, we're not going to put federal taxpayer dollars at risk and making choices that we believe will be poor in the very near future."

The federal government has done this in the past. They did it with the Coastal Barrier Resources Act where it said, "Look, these barrier islands are so fragile. We don't want to keep pouring disaster dollars in here, development dollars, states, localities. You want to develop those areas? Do so, but don't ask us for support." A similar model here in the United States should be followed.

Basically, no federal money should subsidize at-risk development unless there are overriding reasons. There might be reasons of equity because many people of color of marginalized communities live in areas that are at great risk. We have to address those inequities. Just a brand new development in an area that we saw, for example, in Los Angeles after a big wildfire, 19,000-home development in an area at high risk, probably not a good idea for the federal government to be supporting that kind of development going forward.

Gil: Staying on the federal government, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework, or BIF as it's colloquially called here in the Beltway, does appear to have some focus on resiliency. We may see more climate resiliency focus in the potential subsequent budget reconciliation bill. Could you talk about what provisions you're hoping to see pass into law either in the BIF or perhaps in another vehicle and how some of those provisions that are being discussed could really make a big difference in improving our climate security going forward?

Alice: It's very important to invest in our infrastructure. If you look at our airports or ports, many of them need major investments and reconstruction, but just as for new dollars for new builds as we're doing retrofits, we need to be making sure that any federal support to infrastructure incorporates considerations of the future risk that that infrastructure will suffer as a result of climate change.

That isn't happening in any way systematically across the United States, and the Biden plan hasn't been explicit about how that will occur. One of the concerns is it's easy, very easy to state we're going to have climate-resilient infrastructure, but when you get down to how do you actually accomplish that, it's quite technical. It requires engineering standards. It requires a new cost-benefit analysis, requires hazard mapping, vulnerability mapping that may not exist yet.

It becomes very complicated. Without a concerted effort, I suspect the federal government is at risk of making some investments in infrastructure that may not be as resilient as one would hope. This is particularly important with infrastructure because you'd think infrastructure we hope will have a service life of 50 to 100 years. As one engineer told me, "It's always better if it lasts longer."

If we're not thinking about the kinds of impacts that infrastructure will suffer either operationally or really damage to the structure itself in the future and planning for those, whether we're going to make adjustments along the way or we build it really strongly right now, we are at risk of pouring money literally down the drain. I would hope that the Biden administration will come forward with clear plans on how it intends to accomplish consideration of climate risk and incorporation of climate risk in any investments that are made. With that said, the nation desperately needs significant investments in its infrastructure, everything from dams to railways to broadband.

Gil: Our grid too, of course?

Alice: I think that grid is probably the most important place to start, because everything depends on electricity now. We are seeing very dramatic instances that have highlighted how ill-prepared our utilities are for the types of experience we're experiencing now, much less those in the future. Electric grid. Transmission lines don't transmit as well on heat.

They're also more vulnerable to wildfire. In Texas, we saw extreme cold shut down the entire state, causing people to freeze in their beds. We need an electric grid that's responsive, and can handle these types of events, and can, for example, keep people warm in the winter and keep them cool in the summer. We don't have a grid that can do that yet.

Gil: Let's put a little bit of international lens on this discussion. You wrote an article for Nature last month where you said, "High-income nations can jumpstart the science of practical climate predictions as they did with the vaccine development for COVID. Although the need is especially great in low-income countries, it's time to apply science to develop local solutions to the global climate crisis." Can you expand on that a bit?

Alice: One of the things that I discovered in writing my new book, The Fight for Climate After COVID-19, is just how patchwork our system of data is. We're awash in data right now. This is the era, the golden age of data, but there are these huge holes and who has access and the quality of that data. It's really a case of the haves and have-nots. If you're wealthy, you can either go out and retain a consulting firm or a modeling firm to help you get the data that you need to make your determinations. For the vast majority of the world, that data is simply not available in an accessible usable format.

I'll just give Africa as an example. Of course, accurate weather forecasts are very important for farmers, for those who are depending on soil or agriculture for their livelihoods, but meteorologists need precise weather measurements about local conditions like humidity, precipitation, the barometric pressure in order to produce those. Those types of measurements are not widely available yet in Africa.

Now when you get to creating weather models or climate models, if you don't have that kind of data, it's difficult to create accurate modeling that will inform decisions about future risk. As one atmospheric scientist in Mozambique put it, "Garbage in, garbage out." Those countries are really vulnerable. I'll just say that a small NGO, Climate Central, took a close look at this recently in terms of sea level rise. They knew that our models show how much the seas will rise, but they didn't match up with how high is the land. Those two calculations determine how many people are at risk of flooding.

Using machine learning and a new elevation model, they determined that by mid-century, 2050, sea level rise will push average annual coastal floods in many areas of the world higher than the land that now is home to 300 million people. We're going to have mass migration, but we can't even tell those people now, "Really, the land you're living on right now may not be here, and we need to help you find other way or places to live and thrive. There're enormous gaps that need to be closed when it comes to data.

Hilary: Alice, in your new book that's coming out this September, The Fight for Climate After COVID-19, you discussed how the pandemic highlights the need to ramp up resilience on a global scale. What lessons do you hope people take from COVID and apply to climate moving forward in addition to good data?

Alice: I hope that our collective experience with this catastrophic risk that is the pandemic will help jumpstart our concern about preparing for the risk of climate change. Climate change is coming. It has already announced some of what could occur, but it will get worse and it will get worse even if we cut our emissions to zero tomorrow, just because of the delayed effect in the atmosphere of the accumulation of greenhouse gas emissions. What we've learned from the pandemic tells us need to plan across borders. You can't solve climate change risks by simply planning within the jurisdictional boundaries that humans have so carefully crafted for thousands of years, you need to be able to plan across borders.

You need to prepare in advance. That will include stockpiling. We saw that our supply chains were highly vulnerable during the pandemic. They're really thin, just in time, and when there's a break, that means that break cascades throughout the economy. Nations need to stockpile. They need to plan regionally, and there are solutions there. We also need to have far greater focus on having better outcomes for the most vulnerable. One of the more surprising things that I learned writing this second book is how the impacts of climate change falls so unevenly based on gender.

Hilary: I'm glad you raised that. Can you elaborate?

Alice: Sure. This was just researching how de-stabilizing a catastrophic event can be for a community. If the government fails, then we can have bad actors move in and we see all sorts of negative behavior. I was researching Cyclone Bhola which occurred in the 1970s. As a result of that, Pakistan split and the nation of Bangladesh was born in the aftermath of that cyclone, which killed over half a million people.

When you looked at who was killed, it was much larger percentage of women. Then starting to think, why are more women killed during natural disasters? For one thing, they don't have the physical strength to climb trees. That was very important in the Bhola disasters. They often, because of cultural norms, don't have clothing that allows them to escape easily. They have long skirts and other clothing that makes it difficult.

They're asked to care for the children, so they stay home and are often caring for others in the home and can't escape as easily. When you look at other disasters beyond Bhola, the statistics have improved, more women survived, but consider a drought. When there's drought, women have to travel further to get water. They're often the gatherers of water, so up to 7 miles a day.

When there's a shortage of food, the food goes first to the male, then to the sons, and last to the girls. When the goat is killed in the disaster or the crop is destroyed by the locusts, it's the girl that gets pulled out of school because there's no income to pay for the girls to attend school. I was very surprised how gender was determinative of outcomes. I think that as we go forward, we need to pay far greater attention. The global sustainability goals do focus on gender, and it's important if we are to have equitable outcomes in the face of growing disasters.

Hilary: What about in America? How do you address gender and climate resiliency in America?

Alice: I think we have a similar problem. We have a lot of single mothers in the United States who may not have the adequate funds to evacuate. How do we get a system of disaster insurance so that everyone is able to escape before a disaster strikes? That means that we need to rethink how we respond to disasters. Most of our thinking goes into responding after the event. Most of our dollars go into responding after the event, but we need to look at improving forecast, and based on those forecast, determining whether we give cash infusions immediately to individuals to allow them to find a motel or transportation.

We also need to make sure that we are looking at communities of color who may be in areas of higher risk, and then the women in communities in color, if they're attending for small children, may be at higher risk as well. Throughout all of our work in disaster preparedness, equity has to be one of the primary lenses. We need to make sure that everyone has access to what they need to survive these events.

Hilary: COVID has been challenging for almost everyone, even people like us who’ve been able to work remotely. How did you find writing a book about COVID and climate change in the height of the pandemic? What was that like personally?

Alice: It was actually quite rewarding. I enjoy research and writing. I appreciated the opportunity to remove myself from the trauma of the pandemic as it unfolded to focus deeply on this topic. It was also very interesting to be watching the media reports through the lens of what can we learn from this event that could inform the outcomes for climate change. That gave me a way of thinking about the pandemic that was less threatening personally.

It was a bit more abstract and trying to analyze it as a problem versus knowing that it's a personal crisis for everyone, my family, everyone. It kept me a bit removed. I spent the entire pandemic writing, researching, and getting up every morning and doing that. In many ways, it was a blessing. As you've said, I was very fortunate that I had a job that allowed me to do that, because it meant I kept the terror of it somewhat at bay.

Gil: One quick follow-up there. At what point did you become disheartened by the connection that we can't even get people to wear masks for public health? How are we going to encourage folks through government action and others to make the necessary choices, and in some cases, sacrifices to deal with climate?

Alice: My takeaway from watching the United States' response to the pandemic is that leadership matters. It matters that we have a plan and that we use the plan. It matters that we listen to the scientists that the federal government has, and it has a fabulous resources for scientific information. It matters that our leaders apply that information. I knew because of my work on pandemics when President Trump announced it's only one case in the United States that that was giving false hope to people. A pandemic spreads quickly, it spread silently until the others fall sick.

Meanwhile, if you watch South Korea, South Korea mobilized like an army, very quickly had contact tracing, copied Starbucks and having drive-through testing. It committed itself to making sure it contained the problem from the get-go. That was probably in part because South Korea had suffered prior outbreaks of MERS and SARS, which had motivated even further planning to prepare for pandemics.

My takeaway was, in all of these events, leadership will still matter. It's not something that we can solve as individuals on our own. One of the questions for those of us in democracies is how can we lead effectively to make sure that we are having the outcomes that we need to have as a nation to continue to succeed and be economically prosperous, as well as ensure public health and keep our citizens secure? We need to find the mechanisms that will allow us to do that. Right now, that's challenged because we're so divided, even on the issue as to whether climate change is occurring, and whether it's a threat.

Hilary: Did you find any reason for optimism about climate change based on the COVID pandemic?

Alice: Yes. We saw some nations respond extremely well. We learned that many nations could turn on a dime to help their citizenry in very dramatic ways, pouring out huge stimulus packages that allowed citizens to maintain their footing and regain their footing if they slipped. Those lessons can be applied to strengthen our safety nets when it comes to preparing for climate change. We need to think about programs that allow some people greater access to resources so that they can better prepare themselves in advance for these events. I think there were huge lessons that came across from the pandemic, some things to avoid, but also some things to emulate as we make the difficult choices about the best ways to prepare.

Hilary: Throughout your career, you have focused on very heavy topics. How do you keep from getting discouraged when thinking about climate change day in and day out?

Alice: Rarely do I feel discouraged. I think it's because I feel so passionate about the opportunities. There probably is a big reason in my personal history for why I feel so excited about this. One of the things that frustrated me as a judge is that you get a case and you've got a problem, you want to solve it, but I can recall many times talking to the lawyers and saying, "Well, what if we did it this way?" "Oh, no, Judge," they would say, "You can't do it that way. We tried, it doesn't work." "Well, what if we tried this?" "Oh, no, the law says you can't do that."

With climate change, suppose sadly, we've done nothing, essentially. We are so at the beginning that any idea is a good idea. That gives me great energy to think, "Okay, how can we apply all of the strengths of our nation, the creativity of our people to have better outcomes?" I wake up in the morning, and I mostly am energized by the possibilities for having a better future for all of us. There are many things that we could do that are simple and within our grasp to have better outcomes.

I will confess that recently, there was one piece of news that set me back for a few days, and I really had to think. I am suffering from worry about climate change. That was that last year, we had this Castle fire and it burned in our areas where the sequoias grow. The sequoias are, of course, these trees that are the largest living thing on earth. Some of them are 3,000 years old. They are clearly adapted to fire because fire has gone through those areas in the past 3,000 years. As a result of just one fire, we lost 10% of our sequoia trees. They didn't survive the fire.

I have spent so many days with my family in Sequoia National Park, enjoying those trees and just feeling their strength. They give you perspective on the wonderful world that we live in, but to hear that those could be damaged by one fire set me back and made me realize that we need to urgently let everyone know that we need to cut our emissions and think seriously about how we can be better prepared, because the type of impacts that we will see and have already begun to see are unmanageable. Without immediate action, we're going to have sadder tales and none of us want that. We really want to find those ways to thrive going forward.

Hilary: Alice, when we’ve spoken before, you shared a story about how a minister helped you express the joy you find in climate work. Would you share that story with our listeners?

Alice: Yes. I was a part of a group when I was at Yale University. It's called the OpEd project, and we got together periodically. Those of us who write and speak on climate change. An evangelical minister, a young man, shared something that resonated so deeply with me. He said he found joy in this work, and that was the first person I'd ever heard say that out loud and I thought, "I feel joy in this work, I feel the joy of working with others, thinking through what could be the solutions of tackling hard problems, but doing it in a way that makes me hopeful for the future."

I wake up every morning excited about what am I going to learn about climate change today? What are we going to be able to do to try to influence people to have better choices in the future? It just feels like an opportunity. I know that can be surprising to some, but when he said it out loud, it just validated what I know I had already been feeling. I will be eternally grateful to him for being able to articulate in a way that resonated for me.

Hilary: I love that perspective. What an inspiring message as we think about our individual role in addressing climate change. We will now turn to the hot seat of the interview with fill-in-the-blank questions. First, the most important advice I have followed is?

Alice: Listen. You have to meet people where they are when it comes to talking about these topics.

Hilary: The most important advice or feedback I’ve rejected?

Alice: Avoid the term "climate change".

Hilary: Why is that?

Alice: Because if we don't talk about what is occurring naturally, we can't get ready for it. I don't embrace the term climate change. I don't care really what term is used, but to not talk about the phenomenon that is climate change leaves us at great risk of not being adequately prepared. That's why when people use the term "resilience" as a substitute for climate change, it can be dangerous because if those that are using it do not communicate that the future will not resemble the past or even our current conditions, they will build things that will fail.

Hilary: My climate role model is?

Alice: There's so many, but I think it's James Hansen, the NOAA scientist who first testified in 1988 before Congress that he was 99% sure that human-caused carbon emissions were causing the globe to warm. He was subjected to much criticism for that testimony, but he was the one that spoke truth to power.

Hilary: The biggest misconception about climate resilience is?


That people understand what is involved. It's very easy to say climate resilience, but it's an issue that requires deep thinking