Multistakeholder Effort Reveals Climate Change Impacts And Adaptation Strategies For Hudson River Communities
Climate Change is Underway in the Hudson Valley; Adaptive Capacity Dependent upon Early Preparation
On behalf of a broad Hudson Valley partnership, The Nature Conservancy today released the Rising Waters report that outlines a series of recommendations for climate change adaptation in the Hudson Valley. Over the coming decades, adaptation will be critical as Hudson Valley communities face significant challenges posed by the impacts of climate change, such as extreme weather patterns and rising sea-level.
The Rising Waters project, a multi-stakeholder scenario development process, brought together a diverse group of over 160 Hudson Valley participants to consider the likely impacts of climate change on the Hudson Valley through 2030, and forward recommendations to improve the capacity of the Valley to withstand and adapt to the expected changes.
“The science is clear—the future climate is likely to be a warmer, wetter and wilder climate in the Hudson Valley,” said Katie Dolan, executive director for The Nature Conservancy’s Eastern New York Chapter. “If we act now, there are things we can do help people and nature adapt to the changing climate.”
Key findings include:
- Climate change is already underway in the Hudson River Estuary Watershed (HREW), and the best available scientific evidence is that our local climate will become increasingly warm, wet and variable through at least the end of this century.
- Expected increases in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather pose the most immediate and serious direct threats to human and ecosystem health and well-being in the HREW between now and 2030.
- Sea-level rise due to global warming is a serious threat to human and ecosystem health over the course of this century but is not likely to exceed more than one foot between now and 2030. However, recent reports indicate that these projections are conservative.
- Other significant potential threats due to climate change could arise within the 20 year time-horizon of the scenarios (such as increases in invasive pests and diseases, or the intensification and frequency of hurricanes making landfall in the region), but the extent and character of these risks are difficult to assess at this time.
- The capacity of the people and institutions of the HREW to withstand and adapt to changing climate will depend critically on preparing for expected impacts beforehand, and particularly on decisions and actions taken around land-use and regulation
Key recommendations in response:
- Improve community planning, communication and preparedness for extreme weather events
- Incorporate expected changes, such as more frequent flooding and heat waves, into all land-use decision-making processes
- Guide future development out of flood-prone areas
- Improve the resiliency of the Hudson Valley’s shorelines, natural systems, and critical infrastructure
- Apply cost-effective green technologies and use natural systems to reduce the vulnerability of people and properties to flooding and heat waves
- Create a state climate change adaptation fund
- Conserve healthy forest, wetland, and river ecosystems as well as agricultural resources as they are vital to successful climate change adaptation
By highlighting the most important future impacts of climate change and what should be done to improve preparedness, the Rising Waters project seeks to identify what can be done to strengthen the capacity of the Valley’s natural systems and human communities to adapt to the expected impacts.
The report lays out four plausible scenarios based on different levels and kinds of societal response to climate change, and provides a method for evaluation of the choices facing communities and the region. This approach provides a framework for local governments, communities, individuals, conservation practitioners, transportation officials, emergency responders and others to work collaboratively and pro-actively to increase their preparedness and adaptive capacity to climate change.
“For a long time now, the conversation around climate change has centered on reducing carbon emissions,” says Stuart Findlay, aquatic ecologist, Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies. “While mitigation is certainly important, we also need to pay attention to the types of actions that will help us and the ecosystems we depend upon to prepare for future climate change. Rising Waters represents a new opportunity to work together so that we can make a difference for everyone who lives and works in the Hudson Valley.”
Rising Waters is spearheaded by The Nature Conservancy’s Eastern New York Chapter and its partners, the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, Hudson River National Estuarine Reserve, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Hudson River Estuary Program, New York State Water Resources Institute at Cornell University, and Sustainable Hudson Valley. Bio Economic Research Associates facilitated the scenario planning process.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.