In recent years, a number of states have started taking action to prepare their communities for climate change. Many have even developed specific adaptation plans to guide their work. Until now, though, no one has ever been able to define how much progress states are actually making in implementing those plans.
The Georgetown Climate Center’s online tool, the State Adaptation Progress Tracker, changes all of that. Now, anyone will be able to quickly determine how much progress their state is making and decision-makers will be able to learn from innovative examples of actions other states are taking.
“People want to know what their leaders are doing to prepare for climate change impacts, such as storms and rising seas,” said Vicki Arroyo, executive director of the Georgetown Climate Center. “This tool provides transparency and enables individuals and communities to track state progress.
“This research shows that a number of states have started implementing changes that will actually make their communities more resilient. That’s good news. Nearly half of all U.S. states also have at least some planning underway to prepare for climate change. Unfortunately, the research also shows that many states are still not treating this issue with the urgency that is called for.”
As of today, 14 states have finalized state-led adaptation plans (AK, CA, CO, CT, FL, MA, MD, ME, NH, NY, OR, PA, VA, WA). Another 9 have some level of planning underway (DC, DE, HI, MI, MN, NJ, RI, VT, WI).
A number of innovative efforts are underway in states across the country to minimize and avoid the impacts of climate change. For example:
Massachusetts is investing $50 million to prepare its communities and infrastructure for climate change impacts. The Coordinated Climate Preparedness Initiative accelerated efforts to increase the resiliency of the state’s infrastructure.
In New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law the Community Risk and Resiliency Act (A06558/ S06617-B), on September 22, 2014. The Act requires state agencies to consider climate impacts in many permitting and funding decisions. The new requirements will affect the siting of bulk storage and hazardous waste facilities and the development of oil and gas drilling permits, as well as other projects. The law calls for the adoption of official projections of sea-level rise for the state. State agencies have also been tasked with preparing model laws to help communities incorporate climate risks into local ordinances.
California passed “cool pavements” legislation that will encourage the use of lighter colored paving and permeable paving materials that reduce the heat-island effect in urban areas. Extreme heat events, particularly in urban areas, can kill vulnerable populations (such as the very young, the very ill and those suffering from respiratory illnesses such as asthma).
The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) issued guidance in March 2013 requiring the consideration of climate change impacts in environmental review documents. As a result, large state-funded infrastructure projects now consider climate change impacts over the project’s lifespan. WSDOT has applied this guidance to increase the resilience of infrastructure projects. For example, one recently approved project, the Mukilteo Multimodal Ferry Terminal, considered climate change impacts during the environmental review process. This project will ensure a resilient transportation connection between Whidbey Island and the mainland by improving access, transit connections, and ferry operations. The project was designed to be resilient to future sea-level rise by using fill to elevate the site for the ferry terminal and locating related facilities, such as access roads, in upland areas.
Maryland has incorporated climate change and sea-level rise considerations into its land conservation programs. The state prioritizes important coastal areas for conservation so that lands that will increase the state’s long-term resilience are conserved first with state funds.
To view details about each state’s progress and the specific goals that each state has completed, go to www.georgetownclimate.org/adaptation-progress
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