We've spent far too much time thinking about the global causes of climate change, and not nearly enough worrying about the local impacts that climate change is already having on coastal communities. The distinction is important. Most of the people pushing for reductions in greenhouse gas emissions are environmentalists or experts worried about future generations. But there is a very immediate constituency – the people being hit with higher costs for insurance, water and electricity, and those facing substantial property losses or a drop in business income today because of increased flooding and water shortages. People who live in a coastal community or on a river nearly anywhere in the world are a lot more worried about what's happening right now, than what might happen to future generations if we don't limit greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S., China, India and elsewhere. Climate change means too much water or not enough water in the wrong place at the wrong time! It means deadly heat waves. It means radical changes in natural places, animal and plant life and the onset of new diseases.
Our new book, Managing Climate Risks in Coastal Communities: Readiness, Engagement and Adaptation (by Lawrence Susskind, Danya Rumore, Carri Hulet and Patrick Field) is about to be published by Anthem Press. It tells the story of four coastal communities trying to take climate change-related risks seriously. What they are doing -- and what we have helped them learn from their efforts -- can help other cities and towns fast-forward the adoption of climate risk management measures that everyone agrees on. Here's what these four communities in New England have done: