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Early Responses to Climate Change: An Analysis of Seven U.S. State and Local Climate Adaptation Planning Initiatives

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  • 1 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/Climate Program Office, Silver Spring, Maryland, and Oak Ridge Associated Universities, Oak Ridge, Tennessee
  • | 2 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/Climate Program Office, Silver Spring, Maryland
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Abstract

State and local governments in the United States manage a wide array of natural and human resources that are particularly sensitive to climate variability and change. Recent revelations of the extent of the current and potential climate impact in this realm such as with the quality of water, the structure of the coasts, and the potential and witnessed impact on the built infrastructure give these political authorities impetus to minimize their vulnerability and plan for the future. In fact, a growing number of subnational government bodies in the United States have initiated climate adaptation planning efforts; these initiatives emphasize an array of climate impacts, but at different scales, scopes, and levels of sophistication. Meanwhile, the current body of climate adaptation literature has not taken a comprehensive look at these plans nor have they questioned what prompts local adaptation planning, at what scope and scale action is being taken, or what prioritizes certain policy responses over others. This paper presents a case-based analysis of seven urban climate adaptation planning initiatives, drawing from a review of publicly available planning documents and interviews with stakeholders directly involved in the planning process to provide a preliminary understanding of these issues. The paper also offers insight into the state of implementation of adaptation strategies, highlighting the role of low upfront costs and cobenefits with issues already on the local agenda in prompting anticipatory adaptation.

Corresponding author address: Kyle Andrew Poyar, Brown University, 69 Brown Street, Box 5254, Providence, RI 02912. Email: poyar.kyle@gmail.com

Abstract

State and local governments in the United States manage a wide array of natural and human resources that are particularly sensitive to climate variability and change. Recent revelations of the extent of the current and potential climate impact in this realm such as with the quality of water, the structure of the coasts, and the potential and witnessed impact on the built infrastructure give these political authorities impetus to minimize their vulnerability and plan for the future. In fact, a growing number of subnational government bodies in the United States have initiated climate adaptation planning efforts; these initiatives emphasize an array of climate impacts, but at different scales, scopes, and levels of sophistication. Meanwhile, the current body of climate adaptation literature has not taken a comprehensive look at these plans nor have they questioned what prompts local adaptation planning, at what scope and scale action is being taken, or what prioritizes certain policy responses over others. This paper presents a case-based analysis of seven urban climate adaptation planning initiatives, drawing from a review of publicly available planning documents and interviews with stakeholders directly involved in the planning process to provide a preliminary understanding of these issues. The paper also offers insight into the state of implementation of adaptation strategies, highlighting the role of low upfront costs and cobenefits with issues already on the local agenda in prompting anticipatory adaptation.

Corresponding author address: Kyle Andrew Poyar, Brown University, 69 Brown Street, Box 5254, Providence, RI 02912. Email: poyar.kyle@gmail.com

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