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Resources for Community Revitalization Leaders Adapting to Climate Change

June 2, 2023


By Erin Kelly 

If you think climate change doesn’t affect how we tackle vacant, abandoned, and deteriorated (VAD) properties—referred to by some as “blighted” properties—think again. 

Places are getting hotter—and colder. Extreme weather events caused by these shifts are becoming more common and more deadly, forcing migration as storms flood or destroy the physical structures people call home and leaving ruined properties and contaminated vacant lots in their wake. And the people most susceptible to the risks, threats, and consequences of climate change are the most vulnerable households: people without the economic mobility to choose to live elsewhere. 

By directly impacting people and the places they live (or once lived), climate change impacts community revitalization. But adapting to a problem this global and complex can feel out of reach for local leaders. 

How can local leaders start understanding climate adaptation? 

Climate adaptation decisions should be informed by science and on-the-ground observation. However, you don’t need deep technical expertise to start conversations that build understanding around these issues. Local decisions around adaptation should be driven by community values rather than specific knowledge of geology or demographics. 

This post compiles a handful of evidence-backed tools local leaders can use to learn more about how climate change may affect your community and help you address the human strife caused by climate change. 

Better resources are required to fully assess and address the people side of climate adaptation, especially in the context of VAD properties and communities that are home to them. Although it is important to feel comfortable navigating the type of information available through these tools, the real work is to practice making decisions in reaction to this information that aligns with and reflects shared values.  

State Climate Summaries 

The State Climate Summaries from the NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information are a wonderful place to start considering the impact of climate change on your community. Search by name or use the online map to review or download a four-page pdf that includes key messages, a summary, and charts and figures exploring historic and projected climate conditions, sea-level flooding, and coastal flooding. Each summary has been anonymously peer-reviewed, with at least two expert reviews completed per state. 

The State Climate Summaries are focused, evidence-backed, and accessible entry points into the wealth of climate change information available today. The summaries use clear language, with few acronyms, and only take about fifteen minutes to review. 

 U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit: Climate Explorer 

The Climate Explorer shares interactive maps and graphics linked to science-backed data and historic weather information for the United States and all US territories. This free tool shows projected changes (e.g., temperature, precipitation) for the future based upon different scenarios for changes in global emissions. The information is thorough, evidence-based, and not overly technical. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) created this tool in conjunction with a small team of academics and consultants. The quick tutorial from NOAA is a great place to start. 

The Neighborhoods at Risk tool is especially valuable: it allows you to find location-specific information in maps at the census tract level to index vulnerable populations and vulnerable land cover conditions, flooding, and historic weather patterns. 

Northern Institute of Applied Climate Science: Adaptation Workbook  

The Adaptation Workbook, created by the Northern Institute of Applied Climate Science (NIACS), is a free online tool that connects users with climate impact statements specific to a geographic region or place. The workbook provides users with a flexible process to consider climate change information and to develop climate adaptation management plans that align with current land management objectives.  

This viewer, which draws from the 2018 National Climate Assessment and describes anticipated climate impacts at the regional level, is a good starting point. Technical resources in the Adaptation Workbook include climate information and ecosystem vulnerability. Data is drawn from the Climate Change Response Framework and all climate impact statements in this tool have citations and links to further reading.  

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change: Sixth Assessment Report Interactive Atlas 

The IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report was released in August 2021 and is the latest in a series of global standard-setting reports that assess the international impacts and future risks of climate change.  

The interactive atlas is a great visual resource that allows users to select visualizations in a map form, by specific regions, or in combinations that consider everything from hail to permafrost to coastal erosion to landslides. All information is explained with contextual notes, including the degree of scientific confidence. The Advanced version of the Atlas allows for a more detailed evaluation of vast geographic areas.  

The IPCC has tried to limit the amount of jargon used in the atlas, resulting in an accessible tool for exploring the most current science and climate-related trends influencing your region. 

Georgetown Climate Center: Adaptation Clearinghouse 

The Adaptation Clearinghouse is an online database created by the Georgetown Climate Center, focused on climate change impacts that adversely impact people and the built environment. 

The Adaptation Clearinghouse includes the most up-to-date reports and policies on climate change, including at the state and local levels. Resources are searchable by keyword, location, and specific adaptation planning themes or sectors such as energy, small communities, and coastal planning. Users can filter resources by popularity; science; plans and planning guides; law and regulation; funding; and case studies. 

A particularly useful resource within this set is the State Adaptation Progress Tracker, which tracks progress that states are making on implementing their climate adaptation plans. Each state plan includes a summary and links to the plan and related documents.  

The Adaptation Clearinghouse is continuously updated by its member contributors, as well as by members of the Georgetown Climate Center and the Urban Sustainability Directors Network.  

How are you engaging with climate change as part of your community revitalization work? What’s working and what’s not? What conversations can Community Progress convene to support you in this effort? Let us know at [email protected]! 

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