Adaptation Planning – What U.S. States and Localities are Doing

The scientific community has reached a strong consensus that the climate is changing. Current projections show further global temperature increases from 2.5ºF to 10.4ºF by 2100, while warming in the United States is expected to be even higher. This warming will have significant consequences for the United States, causing sea-level rise that will gradually inundate coastal areas and increase both beach erosion and flooding from coastal storms, changes in precipitation patterns, increased risk of droughts and floods, stronger hurricanes, threats to biodiversity, and a number of potential challenges for public health. Early impacts of climate change are already appearing. Several U.S. legislative committees are analyzing proposed federal greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction policies, and dozens of states are taking action to reduce GHG emissions. While these actions are vital to reducing the impacts of future climate change, we are already committed to further warming for decades to come. As a result, strategies to adapt to the impacts of climate change will be necessary as a parallel strategy to mitigating greenhouse gas emissions..While governments act to mitigate future climate change, they must also plan and act to address the impacts. This preparation includes risk assessments, prioritization of projects, funding and allocation of both financial and human resources, solution development and implementation, and rapid deployment of information sharing and decision support tools. Corresponding to the size of the challenge, impacts span entire communities and regions. As such, adaptation is dependent on numerous stakeholders from federal, state and local government, science and academia, the private sector, and community residents to develop solutions to complex problems for which prior solutions may not exist. Adaptation will require creativity, compromise, and collaboration across agencies, sectors and traditional geographic boundaries.This paper focuses on adaptation plans and actions in progress by state and local governments. Many of these efforts are in their earliest stages. Some states are including adaptation within the scope of their state Climate Action Plans addressing GHG emissions. A few others have recognized the need for separate and comprehensive adaptation commissions to parallel their mitigation efforts. Many are simply responding to climate impacts as they occur, without necessarily attributing the impact to climate change. Regardless of the basis for the adaptive response, states have much they can learn from each other, and from localities where adaptation is already occurring. While comprehensive and proactive adaptation planning is still in the early stages, as states complete their GHG mitigation plans, adaptation planning is gaining greater attention and resources from states and localities.

Climate Change and the Planning Process in Graham Island

Graham Island is the most northern of the Queen Charlotte Islands, also known as Haida Gwaii, located approximately 100 kilometres off British Columbia’s North Pacific coast. The study area — the northeast area of Graham Island — is highly sensitive to future sea-level rise. It naturally experiences extreme environmental conditions, including tidal ranges approaching seven metres, intense wave action, storm surges, and strong winds, typically above gale force. The people of northeast Graham Island are no strangers to the powerful elements of nature and have shown resilience in the face of these natural hazards, which also include strong earthquakes.

Two communities on northeast Graham Island — Masset and Old Masset Haida Nation Reserve — are low-lying and vulnerable to flooding. An evacuation route for these communities was closed for six months due to inundation and washouts. Further south near the community of Tlell, many property owners have lost land to erosion. The main highway that connects the northern communities to Queen Charlotte City, the ferries, and the Sandspit Airport, is continuously threatened in this area by erosion and flooding.

The study took a local perspective and used an integrated approach to assess human and biophysical vulnerability to climate change. This involved a local focus group to guide the research, in depth interviews with key community members (e.g., emergency and municipal planners, Haida elders, business owners and local residents), a community workshop, and several community research forums. The study examined community resilience and adaptive capacity, as well as environmental sensitivity to climate change, and combined these findings to assess ways to build on existing and potential adaptive capacities at the community and household scale. 

Developing a System of Sustainability Indicators for the Lake Balaton Region

Studied area is the Lake Balaton region, where we had to go back to re-clarify issues as we were trying to find suitable indicators. This initiative showed that developing an indicator system is a fairly demanding process. However, identifying local trends and linking them to policy-making are crucial, because lack of comprehensive information accessible in a timely manner can severely constrain successful adaptation efforts. Although our work represents only an initial step, the indicator system developed in the project will hopefully inspire concerned citizens and organizations in the region to take interest in this issue and continue working on indicators beyond this project.

San Diego Climate Change Progress: Results from a City Benchmarking Study

The San Diego Foundation is committed to advancing more comprehensive solutions to climate change by local governments in the San Diego region. However, before acting, it is important to understand the foundations upon which we can build and the gaps to be filled. This study compares the progress on planning for climate change between the nine local cities which have officially declared commitment to climate action, and eleven other cities around California. Comparison cities were chosen based also on these declarations of commitment to the issue, and to represent a similar diversity in size, geography, economic focus, and coastal access as the cities in San Diego. The following report summarizes the current policy context facing local governments and compares the twenty participating cities based on specific steps on climate change planning from completing greenhouse gas inventories to implementing comprehensive plans of action. Many local governments in our region are in the initial phases of planning for climate change. With swift action, addressing the unique local challenges, and by leveraging the appropriate tools, these cities can, and should, keep abreast with their peers elsewhere in California. 


San Diego's Changing Climate: A Regional Wake-up Call

This project utilized tools pioneered by King County, Washington, to explore what the San Diego region will be like in the year 2050 if the current climate trends and greenhouse gas emissions continue unabated. The report assesses climate change impacts on eight aspects: climate change, population growth, land use, public health, energy, water, biodiversity, and wildfires. Projected impacts are based upon three scaled down climate models and two emissions scenarios from the IPCC. The report details projected impacts due to increases in temperature, sea level rise, water shortage, increases in wildfires, decreased public health, loss of native species, and increased energy needs. Each chapter highlights the science behind the issue, modeled projections, and suggests solutions or ways to mitigate the problem.

Canadian Communities' Guidebook for Adaptation to Climate Change

Many local governments have already begun working on decreasing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Recently, a growing number have begun examining ways to adapt to climate change – the act of reducing climate change impacts that are already underway. This Guidebook is intended to help those who are looking for ways to reduce the impacts of climate change (increasing heat waves, water shortages, intense storms and sea-level rise) while decreasing GHG emissions and ensuring sustainable development for their communities. Several different methods can be used to adapt to climate change. Some of these methods contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions while increasing long-term sustainability. Expanding the tree canopy in urban centres, for example, helps to reduce the impact of an increasing number of hot days and heat waves. It also reduces the need for air conditioning, and so reduces greenhouse gas emissions from fossil-fueled electricity generation. Healthy trees also decrease the impact of intense rainfall, stormwater runoff and pollution – increasing sustainability for our communities.

Climate change impacts will affect societies in complex and broad-ranging ways as technological, economic, social and ecological changes take place across regions, groups and sectors. Ecological impacts have cascading effects on social and health outcomes. Infrastructure problems have profound economic effects, such as the estimated $10 billion US price tag resulting from North America’s 2003 power outage. Cities, regions and countries are linked through the global political economic system so that impacts in one area of the world may affect other areas through economic forces, such as prices for agricultural products, or pressures including international migration.

In North America, vulnerability to climate change will depend on the effectiveness and timing of adaptation, as well as the distribution of coping capacity. While Canada has considerable  adaptive capacity when compared to many less developed nations, vulnerability and adaptive capacity are not uniform across our society. Socially and economically disadvantaged populations are likely to have less adaptive capacity than the population as a whole, and climate “surprises” may bring weaknesses in adaptive capacity to light that were not previously recognized (e.g., the 1988 Ice Storm, Hurricane Katrina or the 1995 Chicago heat wave). Community attributes, including social networks, social cohesion, volunteerism, economic and income diversification, contribute to adaptive capacity and resilience. Societal impacts will therefore depend on factors such as wealth, infrastructure quality, emergency preparedness, healthcare, community vitality, economic and governance system structure, and population growth.

Adaptation, Mitigation and Sustainable development (SAM) are often developed separately at the local government and community level. Recognition of the need to integrate climate risks into development priorities and decision making is the principal driving force behind the development of the SAM project. A number of methods are possible for the integration of adaptation and mitigation in the context of sustainable development. This Guidebook provides one such method.

Coastal vulnerability to climate change and sea-level rise, Northeast Graham Island, Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands), British Columbia

This report documents the approach, methods, and key findings of CCIAP1 Project A580: Coastal vulnerability to climate change and sea-level rise, Northeast Graham Island, Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands, QCI), British Columbia. This 3-year study was funded by Natural Resources Canada’s Climate Change Impacts and Adaptations Directorate (CCIAD) with additional contributions from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI), and the Geological Survey of Canada (GSC). In-kind support was also provided by BC Parks, GSC, Council of the Haida Nation (CHN), CHN-Forest Guardians, Old Massett Village Council, and the University of Victoria.

The document contains several sub-sections that present: 1) the research context, objectives and approach, 2) research results on climate change signals and impacts, 3) community-defined impacts and elements of adaptive capacity, 4) key vulnerabilities to climate change related risks, and 5) potential adaptation measures and strategies.

Kayak Point County Park Restoration Feasibility Assessment Phase I

Coastal Geologic Services, Inc. (CGS) has been contracted by Snohomish County Surface Water Management (County) to provide restoration feasibility assessments and proposed restoration designs of the shore at Kayak Point Regional Park. The project is comprised of two phases. The first phase was completed in late 2007 and entailed geomorphic assessments used to support the development of three conceptual beach and backshore restoration designs (Coastal Geologic Services Inc. 2007). A final design would be selected and completed to a 30% and 100% stage in Phase 2. 

The purpose of this study was to provide a coastal geomorphic assessment and restoration feasibility study of the Kayak Point County Park for Snohomish County Surface Water Management.

City of Homer Climate Action Plan

In March, Homer joined the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI), as one of more than 700 local governments participating in the Cities for Climate Protection Campaign. Later, Homer accepted an invitation to participate in the pilot phase of ICLEI’s Climate Resilient Communities program, which focuses on adaptation to climate change. On 16 November 2007, just as this Climate Action Plan was being finalized, the IPCC released its “Summary for Policymakers of the Synthesis Report of the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report” in which it concluded with unprecedented language the urgency to initiate meaningful measures within the next two to three years to combat global climate change.

Urban Planning for Climate Change

Scientific opinion is now unanimous that global temperatures are likely to continue to rise with concomitant extreme weather patterns and events. There is a protean body of scientific literature available on global warming and climate change, which is affecting urban living in every respect from ‘heat islands’, continuous light and sea level changes as well as severe droughts and floods paralysing urban areas. Urban planning implications are reflected in buildings, street and community design for more environmentally sustainable cities. The urban science related to climate change and its implications for human settlement is in its early stages. Nonetheless, climate change is already becoming a concern of insurance and actuarial industries as they begin to assess risk to human settlement, construction and other risks associated with atmospheric conditions. These cannot be anticipated and need to be examined with  a new paradigm for urban problem solving which is outlined in this paper.