U.S. adaptation plans show varied success in states

A new online tool released by the Georgetown Climate Center measures progress states are making in implementing measures to address climate change. How are states balancing adaptation goals with economic growth? During today's OnPoint, Jessica Grannis, adaptation program manager at the Georgetown Climate Center, discusses the tool and accompanying research demonstrating mixed success among states.


Monica Trauzzi: Hello, and welcome to OnPoint. I'm Monica Trauzzi. With me today is Jessica Grannis, adaptation program manager at the Georgetown Climate Center. Jessica, thanks for coming on the show.

Jessica Grannis: Thanks for having me.

Monica Trauzzi: Jessica, the Georgetown Climate Center has just released a new online tool along with some new research that shows progress states are making in implementing measures to address climate change. How does this tool advance the discussion on climate adaptation here in the United States?

Jessica Grannis: Sure. What we hope is that this tool will help states not only understand -- states and localities and other users understand what's happening on the ground in their own state and how their state is making progress in implementing the recommendations that they set for themselves within their state adaptation plans, but it also can provide a path forward for the other states that don't yet have adaptation plans, to think about what are the options for them in terms of preparing their communities and their state for climate as well.

Monica Trauzzi: California and Massachusetts are highlighted as having the greatest number of adaptation goals in place. So what are these states doing that's different, and how are they balancing adaptation goals with economic growth?

Jessica Grannis: Yeah, so I mean, I think California and Massachusetts both have significant coastlines and large states where they have a lot of resources and assets at risk, so they're really needing to have very in-depth plans with a lot of different actions across a lot of different sectors. And so that is one of the reasons why they have so many recommendations and why they're really focusing on this issue and making progress. I think, too, the question of how they're balancing economic development with climate adaptation, many of the states, I think, view it as a need to protect their taxpayers and their people and property along their coasts, and so they really view this as a need to do both, and a need to balance the -- how your state is preparing for climate and to protect all of the assets that they have in place.

Monica Trauzzi: What state stories stand out to you as being the most innovative and sort of outside the box in terms of what they're doing?

Jessica Grannis: Sure. I think one of the key ways that states are really mainstreaming consideration of climate is to use environmental review documents to think about the impacts to projects and design and implement mitigation to those projects as they go through the environmental review process. So an example comes from Washington, where they use their mini environmental protection act to consider the long-term impacts to projects through the environmental process, and one of the ways that they've changed how they lay concrete is with a ferry terminal in Puget Sound that not only was elevated and had roads relocated so that it wouldn't be vulnerable to flooding impacts in the future.

Monica Trauzzi: Let's talk about Florida. They have 28 goals in place and have completed zero. So what are the lessons they can learn from other states that have seen broad success so far?

Jessica Grannis: Yeah, so I think it's important to note that all of the states -- there is no federal mandate for states to do this. A lot of this action has been driven by leadership at the executive level or within the state legislatures, and so each of these plans take different forms because there's no template for doing this kind of adaptation planning, and in Florida, this plan was put in place as part of a comprehensive mitigation and adaptation plan. So really, their focus was both on mitigating and adapting to climate, and they've had a change in political leadership, so they haven't gotten as much support from the executive as they had when they initially put the plan in place, but I think the good news is that in Florida, this is showing that the plan is durable, so even despite the change in leadership, their state agencies are still viewing this as the goals that they've set for their state and still continuing to make progress and implementing those goals on the ground.

Monica Trauzzi: How many states don't have adaptation plans in place?

Jessica Grannis: So we have 14 states that have adaptation plans and eight that are in progress with plans, plus the District of Columbia. So we have a little less than half the states making some kind of progress in terms of thinking about climate and incorporating it into their decisionmaking.

Monica Trauzzi: So how do you think this research could inform the debate over EPA's regulations for existing power plants, where states are tasked with crafting their own individual compliance mechanisms?

Jessica Grannis: Well, I think part of the discussion needs to be how do we merge the two questions about adaptation and mitigation, because what we do on mitigation will really affect how expensive and whether or not it's even possible to adapt to the impacts that we're going to see, and a lot of the adaptation measures that are out there have either co-benefits for mitigating emissions and reducing energy costs, but some of the adaptation measures will have increases in energy consumption. So for example, with water reuse, it's a very energy-intensive process, and so we need to think about how our adaptation goals are either benefiting our mitigation goals, or in conflict, and make good decisions based upon that analysis.

Monica Trauzzi: Very interesting. We'll end it there. Thank you for coming on the show.

Jessica Grannis: Thank you so much.

Monica Trauzzi: And thanks for watching. We'll see you back here tomorrow.

[End of Audio]



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