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UW Today

A string of record-breaking summers and a massive storm in New York City have brought new attention to the effects of climate change and prompted discussions about how to safeguard cities and crops. A University of Washington group that has focused on this question for almost two decades is part of a new report and first-ever national meeting on adapting to the effects of a changing climate.

Amy Snover, director of the UW’s Climate Impacts Group, is one of four co-authors of a national report released this week that outlines the state of adaptation to climate change in the United States. She wrote the chapter on adaptation in the urban environment.

“The past is an increasingly poor guide to the future,” Snover writes. With changes in temperature, precipitation patterns and sea level, she writes: “plans, policies, infrastructure and expectations… must be adjusted accordingly.”

Overall, the report concludes that despite widespread interest in climate change, most public projects do not take climate change into account, and those that do are still in the risk-assessment and planning stages – be they building higher seawalls to deal with rising seas, changing zoning codes in anticipation of bigger floods, or including climate change in strategies for municipal water supplies.

“If you want to talk about something that’s changed on the ground to prepare for a changing climate, there are few examples nationwide,” Snover said. But she believes things are changing. “Funders are beginning to put a high priority on implementation, rather than just planning.”

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