Hurricane Fran

Clients and collaborators – The Harrison Institute contributes to work of the Georgetown Climate Center (GCC).  The GCC supports climate partnerships at every level of government, links states with federal policymakers, analyzes legislation and rule-making, shares best practices, and serves as a resource to all states.  Harrison projects contribute to the GCC's Adaptation Clearinghouse of resources for coastal development, public health, transportation, water, and other sectors.  See our list of other clients and collaborators here.

Projects on Climate Policy

sea level riseAdapting to sea level rise – As the seas continue to rise, coastal communities face increasing flooding, erosion and storm surge, which will destroy ecosystems and cause significant property damage.  We are working with state and local governments that seek to minimize these effects by adapting their coastal planning, flood plain management and zoning laws.  To date, we have developed a Sea Level Rise (SLR) Tool Kit analyzing 18 different land-use tools that governments could use to adapt.We drafted a model SLR ordinance, and tested the model for state, federal and constitutional law barriers.We analyzed potential barriers to adaptation posed by permit practices of the Army Corp of Engineers and the National Flood Insurance Program.  We also analyzed barriers to using disaster relief funding to adapt, and provided comments on how Congress could amend the Stafford Act to allow for adaptive rebuilding after Hurricane Sandy. We anticipate continuing our work with coastal communities--for example, Virginia Beach, VA--as they respond to the existential threat posed by climate change.  Read more about our work on sea level rise.  Featured publications:

Heat Island - Emerald CitiesAdapting to urban heat – Pavement and buildings lack shade and absorb heat;they make cities a "heat island" compared to surrounding rural areas:on average, about 5 degrees hotter in the day and 20 degrees hotter at night.  Between 1979 and 2003, extreme heat caused more deaths (about 700 per year) in the United States than hurricanes, lightning, tornadoes, floods, and earthquakes combined.  When you consider the predictions for global warming on top of that, U.S. heat related deaths could rise to between 3,000 and 5,000 deaths annually by 2050.  We are working with local governments that want to reduce their heat island by using built-environment approaches such as cool roofs, green roofs, cool pavements, and urban forestry.  To that end, we are developing a set of policy tools that include government operations (e.g., paving and other infrastructure), mandates, incentives, and public education.  Besides information about options, paying for adaptation has been one of the biggest barriers in adapting to urban heat.  We have conducted a short series of projects examining potential federal sources of funding, as well as methods of financing adaptation and strategies for local governments to support that financing.   Read more about our work on urban heat.  
Featured publications:

green infrastructureAdapting to more intense rainfall – Urban areas have high proportions of hard surfaces, including paved streets, alleys, sidewalks, and rooftops.  In addition to creating higher temperatures in the city, these impervious surfaces greatly increase the amount of runoff into sewer systems during rainstorms.  This runoff can carry pollutants like trash and oil into waterways, compromising water quality and potentially contaminating water supplies. Many cities in the Northeast and Midwest are projected to have more frequent and more intense rainstorms in the future as a result of climate change; they will need to prepare their infrastructure to handle higher volumes of water more often while protecting those waterways.  We are developing a toolkit for local governments to help them plan and build that stormwater infrastructure to handle future storms while capturing the benefits of "green" infrastructure such as access to green space and better air quality.

Ensuring equity in climate adaptation – Local governments increasingly focus on preparing for climate change, not just in general, but to ensure that the needs of low-income communities, communities of color, and vulnerable groups such as the elderly are fully taken into account during adaptation planning and implementation.  Vulnerable populations and communities are often currently overburdened from disproportionate environmental impacts, poor air and water quality, and lack of green space.  We work with local governments and environmental justice groups to develop best practices, model policies, and community engagement strategies to help integrate community needs and priorities into existing programs and future plans.  For example, we are working with the city government to achieve three objectives in the Watts Branch neighborhood of Washington, DC: (1) protect residents from stream flooding, (2) mitigate effects of the urban heat island, and (3) mitigate economic displacement of low- and moderate-income residents due to rising property values.