Climate Adaptation: A planning guide for New England states, an example for all states
The Center for the Blue Economy in collaboration with the EPA Region I Environmental Finance Center at the University of Southern Maine has co-authored a climate adaptation planning guide for New England states that could be an example for any state in the union. "Climate Adaptation and Resiliency Planning for New England Communities: First Steps and Next Steps,”lays out a systematic approach for dealing with the increasing unpredictability of flooding and inundation in riverine and coastal communities.
The need is pressing, and the report says it best:
"Local governments have a duty to protect the public from the impacts of hazards such as floods, hurricanes and stormwater events that cause disruption and damage. Such impacts are increasing, whatever the argument is about a changing climate. Just in 2011, for example, the U.S. experienced 16 one-billion-dollar disasters from weather and water-related extreme events (Smith and Katz 2013), and regions are experiencing losses that have never occurred before. Superstorm Sandy caused massive unprecedented damage to the New York region. Hurricane Irene damaged or destroyed 500 miles of roads and 200 bridges in Vermont and Connecticut. What would become the 2007 Patriot’s Day storm started in the Southwestern states, ripped across the country, through New England, and ended in Canada, causing $264 million in damages and 18 deaths. Regional events are devastating but so are the more localized ones. In July, 2015, up to six inches of rain pounded parts of Central Vermont, including Barre and Plainfield, causing a bridge to wash out and damaging up to 30 buildings. On September 30, 2015, a torrential downpour of up to 10” in parts of Maine, aggravated by a high tide, caused damages to cars and buildings, power outages, closings and general disruptions.
Long-term climate adaptation can seem daunting, but it is a task that is not different from other policy and management duties that local government faces now. Addressing it is important to successfully deal with ongoing community infrastructure and service needs to support a resilient local economy and environment."
The guide follows a three-step approach:
1) Assess vulnerability and risks: What are the community’s hazard exposures and what is vulnerable and at stake given those hazards? What is the probability of an impact occurring? How big an impact is the community willing to prepare for and when to start prepare? now or later?
2) Develop strategies for adaptation & resilience: What can be done now and in the future to reduce the probability that damages and disruptions will occur? What can be done to reduce the extent of damage if flooding or inundation occurs, and why is ongoing monitoring important?
3) Assess financing opportunities: What resources are available now? What innovative resources can be developed and who are potential partners including state and federal agencies, the business community and non-profit organizations? Importantly, who can pay and who should pay for adaptation today and in the future?
It is written in plain language, a report than any regional planner can read and use. The appendices are rich with resources like visualization tools for assessing vulnerability. "The question that municipalities face is not whether to develop a 'climate change adaptation strategy', but whether to make decisions already scheduled or upcoming in ways that take account of climate change, existing and future hazards, and to consider new courses of action that will have potential and future benefits beyond hazard mitigation, " the report reasons.
We at the Center for the Blue Economy support data driven, long-term planning, and hope that this contribution to the national conversation will be of great use at the community level in the New England states and across the country.
Header photo courtesy of Public Domain Images.
Other Climate Change Adaptation Initiatives from the Center for the Blue Economy
The Journal of Ocean and Coastal Economics: Volume 3, Issue 2—The Economics of Coastal Climate Change Adaptation