Climate Change Adaptation Planning at the State Level in Minnesota

Rachel M. Gregg Jessica Hitt
Posted on: 2/26/2013 - Updated on: 3/02/2020

Posted by

Rachel Gregg

Project Summary

The Minnesota Interagency Climate Adaptation Team (ICAT) and the state Climate Change Adaptation Working Group (CCAWG) are complementary initiatives designed to address and develop responses to the effects of climate change. These groups and their members are developing and implementing strategies to advance climate change adaptation in the state in order to limit negative effects, take advantage of potential opportunities, and improve the resilience of natural and human systems in a changing climate.


Minnesota contains 11,842 lakes over 10 acres in size, 6,564 natural rivers and streams that flow approximately 69,200 miles, and a total surface water area of 13,136,357 acres; these freshwater bodies drain into the Hudson Bay watershed, the Atlantic Ocean, and the Gulf of Mexico (MDNR 2008). The economy is incredibly diverse, represented by agriculture, forestry, mining, manufacturing, recreation, tourism, and energy, among others. Climate change may have both positive and negative effects on the state’s natural, human, and built systems. These primary and secondary impacts include increases in temperatures, flooding, diseases, droughts, and wildfires; biodiversity and habitat loss; longer growing and allergy seasons; more extreme heat and weather events; lower lake levels; and increasing energy demand and usage.

Recognizing these projected impacts, Minnesota formed the ICAT in 2009, which is composed of representatives from the Pollution Control Agency and the Departments of Natural Resources, Commerce, Public Safety, Health, Agriculture, and Transportation. ICAT operates in conjunction with the state CCAWG, led by the University of Minnesota’s Water Resources Center. Members of the CCAWG include representatives from the state Departments of Natural Resources, Health, and Transportation and the Pollution Control Agency, Metropolitan Mosquito Control District, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, cities and counties, the University of Minnesota, nonprofits, and the private sector.


ICAT began examining projected climate impacts in July 2009 and released Adapting to Climate Change in Minnesota in fall 2010; the report includes a description of projected climate change impacts and adaptation examples from different state agencies.

The CCAWG comprises representatives from federal, regional, state, and local governments, nonprofits, academia, and the private sector that work together to advance adaptation through research and education. The CCAWG operates under seven priorities and associated goals and strategies:

  1. Assess needs for research, education, outreach, collaboration, and monitoring by synthesizing information on existing adaptation efforts, identifying knowledge gaps and data needs, and determining priorities to support collaboration on adaptation initiatives.
  2. Advance adaptation research by identifying financial and partnership opportunities and coordinating information sharing around research activities.
  3. Act as an information clearinghouse by creating an engaged and informed network of practitioners and a space for information sharing.
  4. Communicate policy and management recommendations by producing impacts and adaptation synthesis reports and collaborating with other Midwest states.
  5. Provide education by engaging the public, promoting climate adaptation, and hosting conferences, workshops, and webinars.
  6. Inform decision makers and the public by coordinating information dissemination and providing management recommendations.
  7. Evaluate outcomes by developing and applying performance metrics and indicators for adaptation success.

Outcomes and Conclusions

ICAT and the CCAWG are the primary consortiums leading climate adaptation efforts in Minnesota. Many initiatives by these groups and their members have either been completed or are underway; for example:

  • ICAT is coordinating activities among the state departments and actively collaborates with the CCAWG. Some activities that have been identified as priorities include developing better projection tools, identifying and assessing vulnerability and risk, increasing information sharing and exchange, enhancing trainings and capacity building, developing and applying a climate monitoring framework to support the tracking of climate impacts and management actions, and developing a long-term climate adaptation plan for the state.
  • The CCAWG has been meeting regularly since June 2008 and sponsored the 2010 Clean Water and Climate Adaptation Summit with the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum and the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District. This two-day event focused on green infrastructure and climate change adaptation, including presentations and discussions on impacts, climate models,  possible challenges for management, and potential solutions. The group hosts regular climate seminars and utilizes a web-based platform (Ning) through which participants network and communicate.
  • The Minnesota Department of Health formed an internal adaptation working group, which created a five-year Strategic Plan to Adapt to Climate Change in 2010. The plan identifies six goals: (1) researching, monitoring, and reporting on climate-related public health impacts; (2) developing mitigation and adaptation strategies and tools to support decision making and planning related to public health and climate change; (3) identifying at risk populations; (4) improving emergency and disaster response planning and preparedness; (5) increasing adaptive capacity; and (6) communicating with and educating practitioners, decision makers, and the public on the effects of climate change on public health and safety.
  • The Department of Agriculture created an Air Quality Team to coordinate and communicate on activities affecting air quality, including climate change.
  • The Department of Public Safety is developing adaptation goals to include in the state’s hazard mitigation plan.
  • The Department of Natural Resources has included climate change mitigation, adaptation, and monitoring as part of its Strategic Conservation Agenda. This includes preserving lands and forests that can uptake and store greenhouse gases, creating wildlife corridors and enhancing connectivity to facilitate species movement, and monitoring climate change impacts and evaluating the efficacy of mitigation and adaptation measures. The department runs the Sustaining Lakes in a Changing Environment (SLICE) program, which monitors lake conditions in response to impacts from land use patterns and climate change, and is conducting a vulnerability assessment of species and habitats that will be incorporated into the State Wildlife Action Plan.


Gregg, R. M. & Hitt, J. L. (2012). Climate Change Adaptation Planning at the State Level in Minnesota [Case study on a project of the Interagency Climate Adaptation Team and the Climate Change Adaptation Working Group]. Product of EcoAdapt's State of Adaptation Program. Retrieved from CAKE:… (Last updated October 2012)

Project Contact

Faye Sleeper
[email protected]

Affiliated Organizations

The University of Minnesota’s Water Resources Center provides leadership in freshwater management through cutting-edge research, educational opportunities for students and professionals, and community outreach. For students, WRC provides a critical link to water-resources professionals and access to all the University’s water-related programs. For citizens and professionals, WRC provides oversight of community-based programs and training and assistance with issues related to impaired waters, stormwater management, agricultural practices and global water issues.

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