, Volume 18, Issue 3, pp 361-406,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 27 Oct 2012

A comprehensive review of climate adaptation in the United States: more than before, but less than needed

Abstract

We reviewed existing and planned adaptation activities of federal, tribal, state, and local governments and the private sector in the United States (U.S.) to understand what types of adaptation activities are underway across different sectors and scales throughout the country. Primary sources of review included material officially submitted for consideration in the upcoming 2013 U.S. National Climate Assessment and supplemental peer-reviewed and grey literature. Although substantial adaptation planning is occurring in various sectors, levels of government, and the private sector, few measures have been implemented and even fewer have been evaluated. Most adaptation actions to date appear to be incremental changes, not the transformational changes that may be needed in certain cases to adapt to significant changes in climate. While there appear to be no one-size-fits-all adaptations, there are similarities in approaches across scales and sectors, including mainstreaming climate considerations into existing policies and plans, and pursuing no- and low-regrets strategies. Despite the positive momentum in recent years, barriers to implementation still impede action in all sectors and across scales. The most significant barriers include lack of funding, policy and institutional constraints, and difficulty in anticipating climate change given the current state of information on change. However, the practice of adaptation can advance through learning by doing, stakeholder engagements (including “listening sessions”), and sharing of best practices. Efforts to advance adaptation across the U.S. and globally will necessitate the reduction or elimination of barriers, the enhancement of information and best practice sharing mechanisms, and the creation of comprehensive adaptation evaluation metrics.