By: Roger Stephenson, Union of Concerned Scientists

Resilience of coastal and tidal areas to fair-weather flooding, storm surges and sea level rise is becoming more visible here in New Hampshire thanks to local leaders and the interested public who are using tools like the Coastal Risks and Hazards report, New Hampshire Coastal Flood Risk Summary guidance and the sea level and ground water rise mapper, as well as funding resources through the NH Coastal Program. Upper watershed communities and towns with neighborhoods exposed to increased river flooding are taking steps to prepare for increased flooding. Still other communities are acknowledging the growing public health burdens associated with extreme heat and water-borne and vector borne diseases like Lyme Disease. 

Proper resilience and adaptation will take more than local resources, however. Fortunately, there is a bill in Congress intended to improve our nation’s resilience to the growing frequency, intensity, and cost of flooding and other extreme weather events by unifying resilience efforts across federal agencies. The National Climate Adaptation and Resilience Strategy Act (S.3531 / H.R.6461) has bipartisan support in both the House and Senate, and Senator Jean Shaheen is a co-sponsor.

The National Climate Adaptation and Resilience Strategy Act (NCARS) will produce a national resilience strategy that breaks down the federal government’s siloed approaches to disaster preparedness. The strategy will develop long-term plans that factor in climate threats and create federal working groups to identify agency inefficiencies and coordinate resilience goals. The strategy will include financial incentives to promote local and state adaptation efforts, improve infrastructure resilience, and prioritize the use of nature-based solutions.

For local people protecting their communities using federal tools, the direction NCARS represents a welcome development. NCARS can help fill the nation’s resilience gaps by:

    1. Creating a Chief Resilience Officer within the White House to improve the coordination of federal resilience initiatives.
    2. Developing a national resilience strategy that better streamlines federal support, leads with science, puts nature to work, and addresses historical inequities.
    3. Identifying federal barriers to enhancing climate resilience and identifying solutions to address them.
    4. Equipping local leaders with the resources, data, and tools necessary to successfully plan for future risk to flooding and other disasters.

Significantly, NCARS gives local interests a seat at the table in developing the national resilience strategy; a Partners Council on Climate Adaptation and Resilience will account for the values and needs of state, local, Tribal, and territorial governments, and the private sector. The Partners Council will streamline support for communities and states, enhance technical assistance, increase local capacity, and better support the on-the-ground needs of those most under-resourced and at-risk. For more information please contact Roger Stephenson at the Union of Concerned Scientists

Photo credit: Jonas Procton, Rising Tides photo contest 2019