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How Can States Get Climate Smart? A New Guide Lays Out the Steps for Action

Ben Chou

Posted April 22, 2013 in Health and the Environment, Living Sustainably, Solving Global Warming, U.S. Law and Policy

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The “new normal” taking shape across the country paints an increasingly dismal picture—extreme weather and climate change continue to wreak havoc in our communities, hammering home the same wake-up call, year after year.  Communities in the Midwest are currently struggling with flash flooding and rapidly rising river levels.  In 2012 alone, there were 11 extreme weather events in the U.S. that each had damages exceeding $1 billion.  The disaster cycle of historic drought, killer heat, severe rainstorms, wildfires and floods, resulted in the loss of hundreds of lives and tens of billions of dollars in damage.  And this trail of destruction followed a record-breaking 14 billion-dollar extreme weather events in 2011.  The consequences of failing to prepare hits home for each of us—we undermine our economy and health, and the natural resources on which we all depend.  But we can start getting climate smart, now.

  • Map showing the 11 billion-dollar weather disasters during 2012 (Source: NOAA)

In the wake of these severe weather patterns increasingly fueled by climate change, some states and cities are getting ready by making climate change preparedness a priority.  To address the threats to families, communities, and natural resources from warmer temperatures, changing precipitation patterns, and rising seas, 10 states have already developed comprehensive climate preparedness plans.  Remarkably, a large majority of states are not planning and remain ill-prepared for the impacts of climate change already here and those yet to come.

Fortunately for those underprepared states, today we’re releasing our Getting Climate Smart guide, a joint effort with American Rivers.  This state action preparedness guide combines practical advice and real-world case studies into a single volume that outlines a six-step planning process for state governments, water managers, and other stakeholders to develop and implement climate preparedness plans focused on addressing the water-related impacts of climate change:

To aid states in the planning process, our guide contains resources with information on potential climate change risks and identifies possible funding programs.  In addition to serving as a planning resource, our guide also includes a "Top 10 List of No-Regret Strategies" to help states prioritize actions, and a comprehensive toolbox of more than 600 strategies for addressing climate impacts in seven sectors:  agriculture, urban infrastructure, fisheries, public health, tourism and recreation, coastal areas, and water management.

Recent extreme weather events show us that the signs of a changing climate already are being felt across the country, right in our own backyards.  And according to climate scientists, these are exactly the type of events that we can expect to see more of as climate change intensifies.  Continued delay and inaction will only magnify the impacts and the cost of dealing with them.  In the weeks ahead, I’ll be posting an ongoing bi-weekly blog series taking an in-depth look at how states and cities are preparing for the impacts of climate change across the seven sectors covered in our guide.          

For those states that haven’t started preparing, it’s time to get climate smart.  We can’t afford to wait any longer.  There are far too many lives, communities, and precious resources at stake.    

On May 14, 2013 at 3pm EDT, we'll be hosting a one-hour  webinar on our report and will be joined by state officials from California and Massachusetts, who will be sharing about their respective state's climate preparedness planning and implementation efforts.  You can register for the webinar here.   

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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