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Adaptation Examples: Society

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Adaptation Examples in Society

Key Points
  • City, state, and federal planners are discouraging construction in low-lying areas and promoting the use of building techniques that can better withstand sea level rise and storm surge in areas like New Orleans.
  • Several Native American tribes are working to develop and implement adaptation plans to respond to climate change.
  • The insurance industry is exploring how it can promote investment in adaptation and minimize the impact of climate change.
  • EPA's Aging Initiative is helping older adults protect themselves against climate change impacts such as extreme weather events.
  • The Interagency Climate Change Adaptation Task Force integrates Environmental Justice into recommendations for how the government should prepare for climate change.

Climate change will likely have significant impacts on society. Water shortages, storms, flooding, heat waves, and sea level rise could all impact U.S. quality of life. Some groups, such as people with poor health or limited financial resources, are potentially more vulnerable to these effects. Similarly, some industries that are closely tied to climate, such as tourism and agriculture , would also be affected. For more information about how climate change will likely impact society, visit the Society Impacts section.

Communities, industries, public health departments, and federal agencies are working to minimize the negative impacts of climate change on society. Societal adaptation measures are specific to the local population and environment. Some specific examples of activities include:

  • Developing plans to help elderly populations deal with more extreme weather
  • Relocating communities where in-place adaptation is not feasible
  • Considering how the private sector can support and promote adaptation
  • Understanding the specific needs of sensitive populations

The following case studies, examples, and related links are illustrative and not intended to be comprehensive.

New Orleans practices community-driven adaptation and planning

Aerial photograph of flooded houses and roads.

New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, 2005 Source: NOAA (2005)

The New Orleans City Planning Commission engaged community members in post-Hurricane Katrina planning efforts Exit EPA Disclaimer to rebuild a community more resilient to climate change. For example, one of the lowest-lying and most vulnerable areas of the city—the Holy Cross district of the Lower 9th Ward—worked with Tulane University and other neighborhood organizations to prepare a sustainable restoration plan. The plan takes a multilayered approach to restoration by promoting the following:

  • Relocating homes in low-lying areas to higher ground
  • Converting unused lands into green parks and urban farms that create natural flood control systems with the co-benefits of recreation and the development of a local food supply
  • Using green-building technologies, such as green roofs and efficient insulating materials
  • Elevating new construction and build accessible escape routes through roofs (mandated)

These actions are intended to build resilience to future extreme weather events while also improving overall neighborhood livability.

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Native American Tribes plan for climate change

Several Native American tribes are working to develop and implement adaptation plans to respond to current and expected future changes in the environment. A variety of public and private partners, including federal agencies such as EPA, provide resources and technical assistance to support actions such as these. To find additional profiles of tribes taking action to prepare for climate change, visit the pages of Northern Arizona University Exit EPA Disclaimer and the University of Oregon. Exit EPA Disclaimer The following examples illustrate the efforts of Native American tribes to address the impacts of climate change.

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Insurance companies promote climate adaptation

Insurance companies recognize the potential impacts that a changing climate could have on their industry and the significant role insurance can play in promoting adaptation to a wide range of stakeholders. Many of the world's leading insurers and reinsurance companies (the large corporations that back insurance companies), such as Munich Re Exit EPA Disclaimer and Swiss Re Exit EPA Disclaimer are members of global insurance climate change initiatives like ClimateWise, Exit EPA Disclaimer The Geneva Association, Exit EPA Disclaimer the Munich Climate Insurance Initiative, Exit EPA Disclaimer and the United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative. Exit EPA Disclaimer

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EPA protects the environmental health of older Americans

EPA's Aging Initiative works to protect the environmental health of older adults through coordination of research, prevention strategies, and public education. Although this initiative does not explicitly focus on the impacts of climate change, many of the environmental health concerns are likely to be exacerbated by climate change—such as extreme heat, flooding, and poor air quality. EPA developed a National Agenda for the Environment and the Aging to guide its work. This was done in collaboration with experts, community members, other government agencies, and organizations such as AARP, the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging, and the National Caucus and Center on the Black Aged.

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Interagency Climate Change Adaptation Task Force prioritizes traditionally underserved populations

In 2009, the Obama Administration convened the Interagency Climate Change Adaptation Task Force. Through an Executive Order, the Task Force was charged to provide recommendations for how the federal government can strengthen policies and programs to better prepare the Nation to adapt to the impacts of climate change. The Task Force released the Federal Actions for a Climate Resilient Nation report in 2011. The report outlines several guiding principles for adaptation including prioritizing the most vulnerable people, places, and infrastructure.

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