Skip to main content
Rising sea levels, increasing temperatures, heavier precipitation, more intense storms and other signatures of climate change will have profound consequences for N.C. local governments. Many communities across the country and several communities in North Carolina are creating climate adaptation plans, which detail how climate change is projected to impact the area and what actions should be taken to prepare. Doctoral student Sierra Woodruff examined current adaptation planning practice in the United States to identify promising practices and potential weaknesses in these efforts. Specifically, she scored 44 U.S. local climate change adaptation plans on 124 criteria and then conducted case studies and interviews with stakeholders.

Woodruff discovered that these plans drew upon multiple data sources to analyze future climate impacts and that they included a breadth of strategies. Most plans she studied, however, fail to prioritize strategies or provide implementation details. Her findings suggest that to improve adaptation planning in North Carolina, plan authors should 1) provide implementation details such as timelines, costs and evaluation metrics, 2) consider a range of potential future scenarios to most effectively account for uncertainty and 3) coordinate adaptation with existing planning efforts. Additionally, her research suggests that planners and elected officials should be engaged in the planning process.

Woodruff has shared her findings with policymakers, practitioners, scientists and students across the state. She has presented her findings publicly, including at the Carolinas Climate Resilience Conference, and is working with multiple stakeholders to create tools they can use to identify and prioritize strategies, and build support for adaptation plans.