U.S. Climate Change Adaptation Industry

November 2009
Volume 2, Number 11

Policy-makers have rightfully been focused on greenhouse gas emission reductions, but even under the most favorable mitigation scenarios, the impacts of climate change will force communities, governments and businesses to adapt. The U.S. climate change adaptation industry is just emerging, slowed by state and federal deficits, by the lack of projections firm and specific enough to plan by, and by denial about just how serious the impacts will be.

But the industry is gaining momentum, particularly in the last year to two, according to experts and consultants interviewed by CCBJ. While funding is still anemic, expect that change as the costs of not preparing become more obvious. A California Think Tank affiliated with UC Berkeley, Next10, has helped to galvanize the Golden State by showing that without adaptation strategies, the state will incur tens of billions of direct costs annually and put at risk trillions of dollars of assets.

For now, most climate change adaptation work is being done in the context of traditional land-use planning, infrastructure and hazards management work. But climate change requires new planning models, which consultants and universities are developing. The Army Corps of Engineers and FEMA are building sea level rise and increased flooding into their projects, and water-stressed utilities in the Southwest are looking at solutions once-thougth too radical or costly like reusing treated wastewater and restoring channelized streams to recharge groundwater basins.

Inside this Edition

Coastal Communities at Risk. Combine sea level rise with more intense storms—both projected impacts of climate change—and you’re looking at thousands of miles of vulnerable coastline populated by tens of millions of people. Read how local, state and federal agencies are slowly changing policies for coastal infrastructure and budgeting for adaptation planning, and how firms like Arcadis, AECOM and other firms are helping drive this work.

Water Resources a Top Adaptation Focus. Climate change will fundamentally change how potable water is produced and distributed in many regions of the United States. For example, declining snowpack in the Sierra Nevada Range will force arid Southern California to reduce the water imports that have fueled its growth for more than a century. Water utilities and their consultants are engaged in an unprecedented search for new, local sources of water. Experts from the Metropolitan Water District, CH2M Hill, Brown and Caldwell, the Occidental Arts & Ecology Center and other organizations explore this rapidly emerging new waterscape.

Insurance Industry, Energy Corporations Coming under Scrutiny.
While governments will be the main responsible parties for managing climate change risks, the insurance industry, energy companies and large corporations of other types are increasingly being called upon to assess, disclose and plan for climate change risks. Experts from a range of disciplines explore this trend.

Profiles of Industry Leaders: Malcolm Pirnie, Dewberry, Ryerson Master Associates (a division of Lloyd’s Register Group), Atmospheric and Environmental Research (a division of Verisk Analytics) and Monsanto.

Additional companies and institutions:
American Society of Civil Engineers, Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies , Center for Integrative Environmental Research, City of Houston Public Works Department, Coastal States Organization, Halcrow Group, ICF International, National Association Clean Water Agencies, Pacific Institute, Parsons Brinckerhoff, Sanborn, Stratus Consulting, URS Corp., WateReuse Foundation, Water Utility Climate Alliance, Zurich Financial Services Group.

Look inside the U.S. Climate Change Adaptation Edition

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