Community and business leaders can take immediate action to save money and prepare for climate change impacts, according to a study released this week by the Manomet Center.


Manomet’s climate change adaptation project is part of an effort to understand impending impacts and implement adaptation measures.


The report included case studies and climate change adaptation plans for 11 rural landscapes in Maine and Massachusetts, including housing developments, farms, forests and recreational areas.


“We identified several clear ways that communities can save taxpayer dollars and become more resilient to climate change,” said Manomet Senior Program Leader Eric Walberg, who headed up the research. “Everyone thinks that climate change adaptation is expensive. The truth is, it will cost a lot more in the long run if you don’t prepare for climate change.”


The study calls for communities to:


  • Create more resilient coastlines by including sea level rise and storm surge projections in decisions on the location and character of new development. Climate smart decisions in the coastal zone will protect the health and safety of citizens, limit future tax burden and protect the health of coastal ecosystems, according to Walberg.


  • Use recent designs that account for increased precipitation intensity when designing storm water infrastructure. “Much of the existing infrastructure was designed for the climate we used to have, not the one we have now and certainly not the one we’ll have in the future,” Walberg said.


  • Keep existing green infrastructure in place to minimize flood threat and protect water quality. Maintaining forested riparian buffers and protecting headwater streams are among the most cost effective flood control measures. Attempting to replace these services with gray infrastructure is costly and often ineffective.  In the case of the Sebago Lake Watershed in Maine the green infrastructure network provides filtration savings of $70 million.


“The decisions we make now are going to have ramifications for many years in terms of cost, health and safety and ecosystem function,” Walberg said.


The report has also led to the development of the Climate Smart Land Registry, which will help landowners and land managers plan for impacts. That system will use the lessons learned from the three-year study to build a scorecard to measure how prepared landscapes are for climate change.


– Dave McGlinchey