Infrastructure protectionTowns in northeast U.S. develop adaptation strategies for climate change

Published 16 June 2014

In many northeastern towns along the coast of the United States, local officials are attempting to identify and predict the effects of climate change which will occur over the next few decades. “You’re going to feel impacts. It’s a global issue with local effects…We don’t know exactly what’s coming, so let’s plan to be adaptable,” says a leader of a regional climate adaptation project.

In many northeastern towns along the coast of the United States, local officials are attempting to identify and predict the effects of climate change which will occur over the next few decades.

Danya Rumore, a project manager with the New England Climate Adaptation Project (NECAP), said “You’re going to feel impacts. It’s a global issue with local effects…We don’t know exactly what’s coming, so let’s plan to be adaptable.”

In a town like Cranston, Rhode Island, adaptation is a key strategy. As the Cranston Herald reports, “the average number of days with temperatures over 90 degrees – currently at three annually (in Cranston) – could jump by as many as 29 or as few as eight by 2099, with an increase of six to 11 such days predicted in the short term.”

Further, the number of “extreme precipitation events per decades — defined as more than 4 inches within a 48-hour period — could jump to seven by the end of the century. Sea level could rise as much as 5 feet.”

All of this will add up to a higher flood risk in coastal areas and increased times of heat waves and drought.

NECAP leader Paul Kirshen, of the University of New Hampshire, created a buzz when announcing that the project’s predictions show that the average annual temperature in the town could increase by as many as 5 degrees by century’s end. A recent forum held in the city included the attendance of State Rep. Arthur Handy (D) and Sen. Joshua Miller (D). Miller told the paper, “Crisis is what gets people involved.”

Perhaps because of all this, Cranston has become a model town of adaptability planning within the northeast. Among the area’s top concerns are flooding and rising sea level, given the potential impact on homes, infrastructure, and ecosystems — anything related to the economy of the area.

Random polling data from the area found that two thirds of residents had thoughts about climate change, with most falling into categories of “somewhat concerned” to the more pointed “concerned about climate change and its impact.”

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