While communities across the United States are moving ahead with innovative strategies designed to mitigate the effects of climate change, a more comprehensive approach is needed, a report from the Kresge Foundation and Abt Associates finds.
Based on a literature review, interviews with fifty thought leaders, and seventeen case studies, the report, Climate Adaptation: The State of Practice in U.S. Communities (264 pages, PDF), found that municipalities — motivated by shared priorities such as reducing their vulnerability to extreme weather events, protecting natural resources and ecosystems, and strengthening community cohesion and social equity — are working to reduce their exposure to climate risk and building their adaptive capacity. Their actions to date, however, have been somewhat piecemeal and limited in scope.
The report also found that municipalities are implementing a diverse range of strategies, from conventional policy tools, to new decision-making processes, to the mainstreaming of adaptation into existing efforts, and that nearly all the successful models developed to date involve effective leadership, collaboration across multiple agencies and/or sectors, and input and support from residents. Based on case studies of efforts under way in Boston, Cleveland, Tulsa, Chula Vista, California, and Southwest Crown, Montana, the report identifies components of a hypothetical well-adapted community, including aggressive exposure-reduction policies, the creative use of existing regulatory powers, systematic monitoring and evaluation processes, neighborhood-scale capacity-building efforts, and comprehensive climate-change-informed planning processes.
"Leading practices that can be replicated in other communities are the strength of this report," said Joel Smith, a principal with Abt Associates. "It can serve as an invaluable tool for municipal planners, adaptation professionals, and community-based champions of climate resilience who want to see what effective models look like in other places."