Winning Public Support for Addressing Climate Change

Evan Paul
Solutions Journal
March 2010

With 4,300 miles of coastline, most of Maryland sits within miles of the Atlantic Ocean or the Chesapeake Bay—and a third of the state lies between the two bodies of water. With sea levels rising, storms growing in power, and patterns of rainfall and summer temperatures changing, residents have already seen the resulting ill effects: coastal areas are losing large chunks of land to erosion, endangered species and habitats are threatened, and farmers fear that saltwater intrusion into agricultural land along the coast will ruin productivity. Each year, the edge of the water creeps closer to homes and businesses.

While many people around the world are grappling with how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions over the next 50 years, those living in coastal areas like Maryland are pushing hard now to find immediate ways to cope with the current effects of climate change before their communities are destroyed.

In early 2007, Maryland's governor, Martin O'Malley, signed an executive order establishing the Maryland Commission on Climate Change, which was charged with developing a state Climate Action Plan. The Plan, one of the first of its kind in the country, not only addressed how to reduce Maryland’s greenhouse gas emissions but also offered some initial thoughts on how to adapt to the effects of climate change. However, Maryland's commission and action plan were only the state’s first steps on these issues. Tough questions like who should make what sacrifices, and how they should be paid for, are multimillion-dollar decisions that weren’t yet addressed and rarely engender consensus. When interests clash around these kinds of trade-offs, public officials are often inclined to let the issue in question slide, and a stalemate ensues. Even in cases where parties want to find agreement, they often don't know how.

CBI has experimented with using gaming to help coastal communities address the risks of climate change and broker local agreements. "Winning Support for Addressing Climate Change" details the events of April 27, 2009, when, in Annapolis, more than 170 mayors, county commissions, environmentalists, business leaders and Maryland state officials came together for an interactive summit about community-level responses to climate risks such as sea-level rise and storm surge that threaten the state’s coast. The summit’s centerpiece was an innovative negotiation role-play that demonstrated the key challenges and policy options coastal communities face.

Read the complete "Winning Public Support for Addressing Climate Change" or download a PDF version, link to the right.

Photo: Olivia Campbell/Maryland Department of Natural Resources