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States Are Responding to Climate Change Threats

Ben Chou

Posted June 10, 2013 in Solving Global Warming, U.S. Law and Policy

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As we enter the hottest time of the year (and a new season for hurricanes, droughts, and wildfires), a slew of states are taking steps forward when it comes to protecting their communities from the impacts of climate change. From state water plans to address increasing water scarcity to comprehensive climate change assessments and planning for sea level rise, governors and state legislators thankfully are using their position and authority to better prepare their states for the wide-ranging impacts of a changing climate.

billion-dollar-disaster-map-2012.jpg

  •  2012’s billion-dollar weather disasters (photo credit: NOAA)

In recent years, record-breaking heat, massive flooding, widespread drought, and unprecedented storms have wreaked havoc on communities across the U.S. There were 11 extreme weather events that each caused over $1 billion in damage in 2012 and 14 such events in 2011. Legislators in Colorado, Connecticut, Maine, Nebraska, and New York have seen the warning signs of climate disruption and are taking action. Other states (and the President) would be well-advised to follow in their steps, and our recent Getting Climate Smart guide can show them how. 

  • Governor John Hickenlooper of Colorado signed into law recently a measure that would create a climate change position. This official would be responsible for developing a strategy to address climate change impacts in the state. The governor also recently issued an executive order tasking the Colorado Water Conservation Board with developing a state water plan to address the looming imbalance between water supply and demand, which is being driven by population growth and climate change.
  • The Connecticut General Assembly has passed a bill that would establish the Connecticut Center for the Coasts, which would help to develop policies and tools to address the impacts of sea level rise. The center’s tasks include determining uniform statewide sea level rise estimates for use in planning and development and assessing the use of soft shore protection strategies such as living shorelines, among others.  These measures would help to increase the resilience of the state’s coastal communities, which have experienced severe flooding in recent years from coastal storms and Hurricane Sandy. Governor Dannel Malloy signed the bill into law late last week. 
  • A bill that would resume climate preparedness planning efforts has advanced out of committee and is up for a vote soon in the Maine Legislature. State agencies were in the process of implementing recommendations from a 2010 report on climate change preparedness when the election of Governor Paul LePage put preparedness planning on hold.  Recognizing that climate threats to Maine’s communities are only intensifying, legislators are trying to get the state’s climate preparedness efforts back on track before it’s too late. 
  • Governor Dave Heineman of Nebraska signed a bill into law that would require the state’s Climate Assessment Response Committee to evaluate the impacts of climate change on key sectors including water resources, agriculture, wildlife, and recreation.  The committee would also be responsible for developing recommendations to address these impacts. This is a significant step forward for a state that previously had barely considered the impacts of climate change.
  • The New York State Legislature is considering a bill that would require that sea level rise and other climate risks be considered for projects that receive state funding and/or are subject to major permitting. In the wake of the devastation and heartbreak that Hurricane Sandy caused, this bill would help to increase resilience to future disasters by ensuring that projects are planned and designed with climate change in mind. The bill has already passed the State Assembly and is being considered in the State Senate. NRDC staff have been putting a full-court press on the Senate leadership to pass the bill in the last two weeks of the 2013 legislative session.  

Legislators in state capitals across the U.S. are seeing the effects of climate disruption in their own backyards as extreme weather and climate change increasingly imperil our communities. 

Other states can look to our recently released comprehensive guide for climate preparedness to show them how they too can prepare for a changing climate.     

   

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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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