The information below summarizes actions taken by North Carolina to adapt to the impacts of climate change. Altough North Carolina has not yet adopted an official statewide adaptation plan, the state is in the process of developing a climate vulnerability assessment and adaptation and resilience plan in response to Governor Roy Cooper's Executive Order 80 in October 2018 (see below). This page summarizes efforts the state has undertaken to assess climate vulnerablities and identify adaptation strategies. 

In 2002, North Carolina passed the Clean Smokestacks Act (Session Law 2002-4), which directed the Division of Air Quality within the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) (today the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality) to study issues related to carbon dioxide emissions. In 2005, DENR established the Climate Action Plan Advisory Group (CAPAG) to primarily focus on how the state could reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. In 2008, CAPAG released a report with 56 recommendations that could be further researched and considered by the state in the future. Notably, one of the report’s recommendations, CC5, called for a state climate adaptation plan; the state, however, has not completed a state climate adaptation plan.

In 2006, the North Carolina General Assembly convened a Legislative Commission on Global Climate Change (“Commission”) to study issues related to climate change (Session Law 2005-442). The Commission met from February 2006 to May 2010 when it completed its final report. Among other recommendations, the Commission asked the state legislature to require DENR, in partnership with other state and federal agencies, to develop a “North Carolina Climate Change Adaptation Strategy.” In 2009, the General Assembly introduced House Bill (H.B.) 1808, which called for DENR to develop a comprehensive “North Carolina Climate Change Adaptation Strategy” that would consist of both a statewide climate vulnerability assessment and adaptation plan. However, H.B. 1808 was never signed into law and therefore, the state legislature has not acted on that recommendation in the Commission’s final report. 

The Commission also recommended that state agencies conduct an inventory of what programs and decisions consider climate change impacts. In 2010, the General Assembly implemented this recommendation in Session Law 2010-180. This law requires state agencies to review their planning and regulatory programs to determine potential impacts from climate change and sea-level rise and make recommendations about how state programs could better incorporate adaptation.

On October 29, 2018, North Carolina's Governor Roy Cooper signed Executive Order (EO) No. 80 entitled, "North Carolina's Commitment to Address Climate Change and Transition to a Clean Energy Economy." EO 80 calls for the state to take several actions related to climate change to improve the health and well-being of North Carolina's residents, foster innovation and growth of a clean energy workforce, prepare more resilient communities, and reduce the impacts of climate change, like more frequent and intense hurricanes, flooding, extreme temperature, drought, saltwater intrusion, and beach erosion. The EO calls for action to prepare for the impacts of climate change (adaptation and resilience) and for mitigation efforts. As a result of the order, the state: established the "North Carolina Climate Change Interagency Council;" will integrate climate adaptation and resiliency goals into agency programs, policies, and operations; and will develop a "North Carolina Climate Risk Assessment and Resiliency Plan" by March 1, 2020. 


Adaptation Planning

In 2012, the North Carolina Interagency Leadership Team (ILT) — a group of 11 state and federal agencies — released a report entitled Climate Ready North Carolina: Building a Resilient Future. The report, which included many of the Commission’s and H.B. 1808’s recommended components for an “adaptation strategy,” provides a framework for how the state could collaboratively create an integrated climate adaptation response for North Carolina across agencies. The report discusses how the state can proactively prepare for projected impacts of climate variability and weather extremes, with an emphasis on practical, economically feasible options that can be undertaken by agencies working with partners at the local, regional, and federal levels. The report presents potential climate impacts on the state’s economy, infrastructure, and natural resources and strategies for evaluating those risks when planning, designing, and implementing projects.

Through Executive Order 80, the North Carolina Climate Change Interagency Council, led by the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, is developing a Climate Risk Assessment and Resiliency Plan that should be announced before or by March 1, 2020. 

Agency Efforts to Plan for Climate Impacts

Some state agencies are also taking steps to prepare for climate impacts in specific sectors, including the following examples:  

  • In 2016, the North Carolina Department of Health published a Climate and Health Adaptation Plan following the Building Resilience Against Climate Effects (BRACE) framework developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The plan assesses how climate change will affect public health in North Carolina and identifies adaptation strategies for impacts, such as rising temperatures and increasing risks of wildfires.
  • In 2010, the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission and the state’s Wildlife Action Plan Workshop Steering Committee partnered with Defenders of Wildlife to publish a report assessing potential impacts to the state’s fish and wildlife as a result of climate change.

Sea-Level Rise Adaptation

In 2010, the North Carolina Coastal Resources Commission released a report projecting 39 inches of sea-level rise along North Carolina’s coast by 2100, based upon the latest scientific information at that time. In August 2012, the state legislature enacted “An Act to Study and Modify Certain Coastal Management Policies” (Sessions Law 2012-202) to limit the Commission’s ability to use projected rates of sea-level rise in regulatory decisions until 2016, and directed the Commission to develop updated projections for the state’s sea-level rise study every five years.

In March 2015, the North Carolina Coastal Resources Commission Science Panel published its 2015 update to the state’s Sea-Level Rise Assessment Report, which provides sea-level rise projections for the state. The report considers future projections of sea-level rise based upon the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (AR5) scenarios and estimates up to a 10.6 inch rise in sea levels over the 30-year timeframe analyzed in the study.

In late 2018, the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality Division of Coastal Management released a new local government online resource page for coastal adaptation and resiliency. The webpage includes hazard forecasts, data, tools, guidance, and funding opportunities that local governments can learn more about and consider when preparing for coastal impacts like flooding. 


This page highlights the actions North Carolina is taking to adapt to the impacts of climate change and will be updated as Executive Order 80 is implemented. Other resources from the Adaptation Clearinghouse, which have been developed and adopted to help North Carolina prepare for the impacts of climate change, are featured in the chart below.

The Georgetown Climate Center’s State Adaptation Progress Tracker, which tracks the progress states are making in preparing for the impacts of climate change, was supported by the MacArthur Foundation.


(Research last updated: April 12, 2019).



State Law and Policy

Resource Name Resource Type Date
NC Executive Order No. 80: North Carolina's Commitment to Address Climate Change and Transition to a Clean Energy Economy Law and Governance October 29, 2018

State Agency Plans

Resource Name Sector(s) Covered Date
North Carolina Climate and Health Adaptation Plan Public health 2016
North Carolina Highway 12 Storm Recovery Coastal, Transportation
Climate Ready North Carolina: Building a Resilient Future Biodiversity and ecosystems, Coastal, Cultural resources, Emergency preparedness, Land management and conservation, Land use and built environment, Public health, Transportation, Water resources August 2012

Local and Regional Plans

Resource Name Date
Cumberland County, North Carolina, Climate Resiliency Plan February 2016
French Broad River MPO Long Range Transportation Plan – Climate Change Chapter September 23, 2010

More Featured Resources

Resource Name Resource Category Date
North Carolina Sea Level Rise Assessment Report - 2015 Update Assessments March 31, 2015
Adapting to Climate Change: A Handbook for Local Governments in North Carolina Planning June 2013
North Carolina Sea-Level Rise Assessment Report Assessments March 2010

Powered by the Georgetown Climate Center's