Help Desk

Climate adaptation practitioners can use this Help Desk as they support place-based climate resilience building processes.

This initial version of the Help Desk suggests technical resources, lists FAQs and their answers, and lets you submit a question for our experts to respond to. We encourage you to let us know what help you need!

Technical Resources

Climate Impacts (Understand Exposure)

Resource Title Description
Climate Explorer The main link accessible through the U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit
Climate Explorer Story Map Walks a user through how to use the Climate Explorer
State Climate Summaries A good place to start for any Practitioner or Government Chamption. It provides a local summary of the National Climate Assessement for each state.
Summary and video of Understand Exposure Summary of the main substeps from the Steps to Resilience. .
Practitioners Guide - Understand Exposure There is a complete chapter with many resources. The new link will be provided in June when it has been updated.
NOAA Sea Level Rise Viewer A web mapping tool to visualize community-level impacts from coastal flooding or sea level rise

Climate Vulnerability & Risk (Assess Vulnerability & Risk)

Resource Title Description
Summary and video of Assess Vulnerability and Risk Summary of the main substeps from the Steps to Resilience.
Practitioners Guide - Assess Vulnerability and Risk There is a complete chapter with many resources. The new link will be provided in June when it has been updated.
Scanning the conservation horizon: A guide to climate change vulnerability assessment Guide to assessing climate vulnerability with a focus on nature.

Adaptation Strategy (Investigate Options)

Resource Title Description
Summary and video of Investigate Options Summary of the main substeps from the Steps to Resilience.
Practitioners Guide - Investigate Options There is a complete chapter with many resources. The new link will be provided in June when it has been updated.

Adaptation Plans (Prioritize & Plan)

Resource Title Description
Summary and video of Prioritize and Plan Summary of the main substeps from the Steps to Resilience.
Practitioners Guide - Prioritize and Plan There is a complete chapter with many resources. The new link will be provided in June when it has been updated.
Climate Ready Communities A do-it-yourself guide for small to mid-sized communities.

Implementing Adaptation Actions (Take Action)

Resource Title Description
Summary and video of Take Action Summary of the main substeps from the Steps to Resilience. 
Practitioners Guide - Take Action There is a complete chapter with many resources.  The new link will be provided in June when it has been updated. 

Assessing Effectiveness

Resource Title Description
Moving from faith-based to tested adaptation process and approach: How will we know we’re adapting? This paper focuses on how the field of adaptation can shift from practices built on assumptions to practices built on evidence and deliberation.

Facilitating Community Engagement

Resource Title Description
Centering equity in climate resilience and practice A CRT Practitioner's Guide chapter that defines what centering equity in climate resilience means and how strategies of inclusion and empowerment are essential to creating successful, equitable adaptation plans. This tool helps the practitioner understand approaches and tools for centering equitable community engagement.
Training Resources for the Environmental Community (TREC) Guide to Meeting Facilitation and Participation This guidance document summarizes the roles and responsibilities of a facilitator, and offers a number of practical solutions to enhancing the meeting effectiveness and support better meeting outcomes. This is one document in a large resource library hosted by TREC that provides a wealth of material for the effective organization management and leadership.
From Community Engagement to Ownership: Tools for the field with case studies of four municipal community-driven environmental and racial equity committees High-impact practices table starting on page 11 provides guidance for practices to support effective engagement and decisionmaking for community-
based organizations rooted in impacted communities, staff of local governments, third-party facilitators and evaluators, and
philanthropic partners,
Climate Access Tool Library Climate Access exists to build political and public support for climate solutions by creating and sharing effective communication and engagement strategies. Their tools are available to those who are working to address climate change.

Incorporating Equity

Resource Title Description
Centering Equity in Climate Resilience Planning and Action Principles and best practices for practitioners centering equity in resilience planning and implementation. Primarily geared to users of the US Climate Resilience Toolkit and the Steps to Resilience.
Equitable Adaptation Legal & Policy Toolkit Toolkit created by lead by Georgetown Climate Center in partnership with equity and adaptation practitioners, designed for local policy makers to address challenges and provide practices and policy solutions for equitable outcomes through city resilience initiatives and community-based organizations.

Prioritizing Nature-based Solutions & Ecosystem Adaptation

Resource Title Description
Incorporating Nature-based Solutions into Community Climate Adaptation Planning Guidance on the use and benefits of nature-based solutions for building resilience.

Financing Adaptation

Resource Title Description
Ready-to-fund Resilience Toolkit Guidance to improve projects' fundability
Climate Resilience Toolkit: Funding opportunities A compendium of funding opportunities including federal, nonprofit, and philanthropic foundation-driven opportunities
Equitable Adaptation Legal & Policy Toolkit Funding and financing strategies for adaptation and resilience projects with a focus on evaluating equity — attention to disadvantages and injustices — as an underlying principle.
Understanding Valuing and Financing climate resilience in affordable housing Recording of a lender exchange call exploring how multifamily housing lenders and their partners can identify and finance mitigation of climate risks in housing properties.

Frequently Asked Questions

Climate Impacts (Understand Exposure)

Where can I start finding local climate data & projections?

A good place to start is with Climate Explorer, which provides interactive graphs and maps showing past and projected climate conditions for counties and county-equivalents across the United States. Start by entering the city or county for which you want climate information. Result panels that can be explored include climate maps, which provide visualizations of climate data (e.g., average daily maximum temperature; days with >2" of preciptation) that can be viewed by historic and/or future projected conditions under multiple emission projection scenarios. These data can also be viewed with graphs that can help visualize the trends and variance associated with climate projections. For coastal regions, high-tide flooding maps are available.

What is exposure?

Exposure is the extent to which people, infrastructure, natural resources, or other community assets could be harmed by a climate hazard. For example, if a building is located near a river which is expected to see increased frequency and intensity of flooding, that building may have a high risk of exposure to the flooding hazard, particularly relative to a building placed higher or farther away from the floodplain.

What future time frame for projections should I look at?

The relevant timeframe for evaluating climate change projections for your community will depend on several factors, including what climate hazards present the highest risk in your community and the availability and certainty of the data that supports projections of those risks; the lifespans of built infrastructure that may be vulnerable to climate change impacts; and jurisdictional planning cycles that inform how long policies and planning objectives may be in effect. For example, if you are building climate adaptation into a comprehensive planning process to address urban flooding that impacts road access and infrastructure, relevant timescales for evaluating climate projections could include over the period during which the comprehensive plan is implemented (e.g., within 10 years), as well as longer-term projections that can inform capital expenditures for road infrastructure that may have a much longer lifespan than a single planning cycle (e.g., several decades).

What IPCC emissions scenario for projections should I look at?

Representative concentration pathways, or RCPs, portray possible greenhouse gas and aerosol emissions scenarios.  For looking at emissions scenarios in the nearer term (by 2050 or sooner), emissions projection pathways are not dramatically different, and as our current national and international framework supports us following a high (RCP 8.5) emissions scenario, its generally suggested for both these reasons that RCP 8.5 be used for nearer-term projections. For longer term projections, conservative analyses argue for the use of RCP 8.5, but it may be relevant depending on your goals to look at moderate pathways (RCP 4.5) at the same time, thinking of each pathways as a distinct possible future. There is no crystal ball for projections but a precautionary approach would argue for seriously considering the higher emissions scenario for future pathways analysis.

Learn more from CalAdapt »

    Climate Vulnerability & Risk (Assess Vulnerability & Risk)

    What is vulnerability?

    Vulnerability is the extent to which natural, built and human systems are at risk due to exposure to and consequences of climate hazards. Vulnerability is also modulated by adaptive capacity, which is a community or system's ability to respond to or recover from climate impacts. Physical, social, political and economic factors can all contribute to community adaptive capacity. Legacies of systemic racism, economic underinvestment, and legacies of extractive or polluting land uses in communities mean that not all communities or populations are equally vulnerable to the same climate risks.

    How do I create a comprehensive list of the things in my community that might be at risk from climate change?

    Assets, or the people, infrastructure, and/or natural resources that your community is concerned about being at risk due to climate change, will vary by community. Resource 1.1c of the Practitioner Toolkit, Community Asset Themes, is one tool that can help the practitioner think about the categories of assets that could be relevant for their community.

    How do I assess risk to assets?

      Adaptation Strategy (Investigate Options)

      Where do I find examples of  adaptation strategies

      There are a number of great online resources that share examples of adaptation strategies in action. The Climate Adaptation Knowledge Exchange and the Climate Resliience Toolkit  both have hundreds of case studies that reflect adaptation in practice. The Adaptation Clearinghouse has examples of state and local adaptation policy. 

      How can one start to develop an adaptation strategy?

        Adaptation Plans (Prioritize & Plan)

        Who should be involved in the process to develop an adaptation plan?

        At the very least, an adaptation process requires the people who will lead the process, the people who will implement it and the people who will be affected by it. Those three groups are not necessarily mutually exclusive but they all need to be participants and ideally co-developers. It is very beneficial to have the a broad range of perspectives and experiences in your process in order to ensure equity issues are addressed and represetion is present.

        Understand and contextualize the demographics of the community (economic, social, racial, language etc) and ensure that those communities are a part of the planning process

        How is an adaptation plan different than a hazard mitigation plan or a climate action plan?

        Could be the same, but might not be. A HMP could be absent of climate hazards (or at least not include projections) and a CAP could be focussed solely on mitigation. FEMA's latest guidelines direct local governments to include climate change in their HMPs, but doesn't give specific requirements for doing so. The question is the difference between adaptation plan and HMP. The HMPs are about reducing harm to people from disturbances. Adaptation addresses the full spectrum of negative impacts from climate change, including chronic impacts to secondary human systems (economic, health, infrastructure, etc.) and natural systems. 

        Implementing Adaptation Actions (Take Action)

        Our community has developed an adaptation plan, how do we implement it?

        Adaptation actions should be implemented through the same processes other actions are taken in your community. Ideally you should mainstream adaptation into the practices your community has found to be effective in engaging community members, complying with regulatory requirements, securing funding, and ensuring sustainability. 

        Is funding avaiable to support implementaiton of adaptation actions?

          Assessing Effectiveness

          We don't have funds or capacity to monitor our adaptation actions. How could we make this happen?

          The best solution is to find a partner! Possiblities include a university or citizen science (CS) partner. Interest in learning about adaptaiton outcomes is growing. You may be able to entice a researcher at a local college, univiersity or even high school to assess the outcomes of your actions. In many cases they are well positioned as fellow long-term local residents. These partners may be able to work independently and share results on a regular basis. There are also some national groups interested in these questions.

          Another approach is using citizen science to build capacity for monitoring adaptation. By involving citizens directly in the research process, CS can help generate information and insights valuable to monitoring and evaluating effectiveness. CS can also have valuable co-benefits of building community, empowerment, and political capital for creating change by raising awareness about local-scale risks while facilitating the development and knowledge of adaptive measures by individuals and communities. CS has the potential to address some of the key challenges that hinder citizen engagement, particularly if such programs are created in ways that minimize barriers to participation and allow for two-way exchange of knowledge so that community members are both learning from and contributing to knowledge goals and outcomes. It should be noted that unless there is a good local partner to lead a CS effort, this can be a significant inital investment of effort to get off the ground, but if it works it can be self sustaining.

          See also Exploring the affective dimension in citizen science to support urban climate adaptation: a conceptual framework »

          How do we know if our adaptation plan implementation is effective?

          You are best prepared to judge the effectiveness of adaptation actions if you build in a monitoring and evaluation framework that enables tracking and reporting of key metrics about your adaptation actions, climate variables, and community outcomes such as public health or emergency response efforts. The metrics assembled and tracked will depend on the actions taken. Examples include: tracking emergency response costs to flooding before, during, and after implementation of flood mitigation actions and flood events; tracking emergency room visits in parallel with implementation of cooling centers and extreme heat events. 

          Why would I want to monitor what I'm doing? Isn't that a waste of resources?

          The practice of climate change adaptation has an incredible opportunity to learn what is working and to improve over time. An analogy can be drawn to the field of medicine where researchers carefully study the conditions under which certain interventions are successful or not. For adaptation, this requires that communities that are planning and implementing adaptation measures monitor and report on what they have done and the outcomes that were associated with their actions. Over time, the results from this information can be used to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of adaptation, thereby saving scarce resources for communities such as yours.

            Facilitating Community Engagement

            How can I increase my community's engagement with an adaptation planning process?

            Community engagement can help build the political capital and human resources you need for successful design and implementation of a plan; it also can be very difficult to come by as many people are limited in their willingness and ability to participate, and this can especially be true of obverburdened communities. Consider approaches that reduce barriers to participation: this can include providing stipends for community members to participate in meetings or focus groups; offering child care during events; offering events at a variety of times; and creating outreach to public events and locations such as neighborhood association meetings and community centers in order to meet people where they are already at.

            Can you share a model for how I should design a community meeting for adaptation planning?

            There are good models available for designing community meetings. One example is the Strong, Prosperous, and Resilience Communities Challenge (SPARCC) guide for equitable community engagement, which lays out key principles and provides several case studies for successfully structuring community engagement.

            Any ideas how to get people who do not normally attend public meetings to show up?

            Good practice in community engagement that entices broader participation includes time tested approaches such as:

            • Develop relationships with local leaders from the populations you are trying to engage and include them in the planning and leadership of the local climate adaptation process.
            • Meet people where they are to build awareness and interest in opportunities to engage; social media, direct marketing, and tabling at community events are all good ways to engage people in conversation and encourage participation.

              Incorporating Equity

              How do I increase historically marginalized voices in my adaptation process?

              Consider employing a community co-design process, where community members are invited as collaborators in the initiating, planning, action, and evaluation processes in order to empower those most impacted by planning and design decisions to be authentically and deeply involved in the determining of outcomes. If you are the facilitator of such a process, make sure you are actively ensuring that collaborators and participants have equal power throughout.

              How can I use monitoring and evalutation to ensure that DEI principles are incorporated into my adaptation processes and the Steps to Resilience?

              You can develop and incorporate indicators that measure how vulnerability assessments, risk assessments, and adaptation strategies account for historic and current racial and structural inequity. It is also possible to integrate measurements to evaluate whether the burdens and benefits of proposed strategies are equitably designed for or realized by stakeholders, and whether impacted communities have the agency to define both strategies and relavent indictors and metrics of success.

              How can our community address the root causes of inequity that results in disproportionate impacts of climate change on frontline communities?

              It is critical to first work with the community to determine the root cause/s of inequity that are impacting climate change and hear from their perspectice what these root causes and the impacts are. Climate hazards are known to disproportionately impact low-income individuals, people of color, other marginalized groups and historically underserved neighborhoods that already face chronic economic, social and environmental challenges (pre-existing or underlying non-climate stressors) in frontline communities. Objectives that directly address inequity (i.e., disparities in access to food, shelter, health, recreation, and economic opportunities) can reduce the vulnerability of frontline communities to climate change impacts by reducing their sensitivity and exposure while building their capacity to adapt and thrive. Information for setting such objectives can come from data or from the needs identified by the community. Adaptation strategies should address these existing stressors. Consider the assets within the community and identify ways to create social, economic, and health co-benefits that build community cohesion: examples include community ownership, anti-displacement policies, and adding or restoring green space.

              See also

              What are some ways to address unintended, inequitable consequences of climate investments (such as displacement) or maladaptive strategies that may worsen climate impacts?

              Maladaptation is when actions taken to adapt inadvertently reinforce existing vulnerabilities or creates new sources of vulnerability. To address maladaptation related to displacement, consider funding and policies that support housing and small business development, such as programs that support energy efficiency and resilient housing investments, especially for renters and affordable home ownership. Community Benefits Agreements and tenant protections are examples of tools to help reduce risks of displacement. In some areas, Community Land Trusts can increase the resilience and affordability of homes. It should also be noted that maladaptation can occur when a long-term adaptation strategy creates additional short-term harms. This may require additional short-term adaptation strategies to support the community. For example, urban tree die-offs due to changing climatic conditions can result in removal of shade trees and replanting of new species, which may take decades to replacement height for cooling. This may necessitate other actions to ameliorate local heat island effects. At the same time, it would be incumbent to undertake efforts to promote passive cooling systems in domiciles to make them permenantly more resilient.

              See also

                Prioritizing Nature-based Solutions & Ecosystem Adaptation

                What are nature-based solutions?

                “Nature-based Solutions” (NbS) describes the potential for natural systems to deliver both climate adaptation and mitigation outcomes. NbS can encompass a wide range of options, from reliance on still-intact natural systems and restoration of key ecosystems to the use of engineered systems designed to emulate natural system functions, for example, rain gardens for managing stormwater or urban tree planting to mitigate urban heat islands.

                What are the benefits of using nature-based solutions over other kinds of strategies?

                Nature-based solutions have several potential advantages over gray (engineered, human-made) infrastructure, including: co-benefits not present with gray infrastructure such as provisioning habitat, increasing biodiversity, and having aesthetic qualities. If constructed appropriately, nature-based solutions have the capacity to be self-regulating and respond and adjust to change, (e.g., a vegetative community whose members can shift in relative dominance over time in response to changing weather conditions; marsh vegetation that can trap sediment and build upon itself, adding capacity for resilience to sea level rise).

                Are nature-based solutions more expensive than gray infastructure?

                The somewhat unsatisfactory answer is "it depends". Scale and location matter significantly with NbS solutions. Grey infrastructure, such as seawalls or dams, can have much higher capital costs at the front end for permitting and construction, relative to NbS. NbS can require larger land footprints than grey infrastructure to acheive desired benefits, so costs could be significant where land value is high. It is important to understand the opportunity costs of implementing NbS when other land uses are in consideration (e.g., agricultural or urban development). Planning for NbS should also take into consideration ongoing maintenance costs (e.g., irrigation or fertilizer to establish plantings, ongoing mowing or weeding to maintain desired vegetation assemblages). See also Assessing the benefits and costs of nature-based solutions for climate resilience: A guide for project developers.

                  Financing Adaptation

                  Who funds adaptation projects?

                  There are a number of large federal programs that are often used to fund adaptation projects, such as FEMA's Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) grants. Funding can also be available through state agencies, private foundations, and increasingly through private investment. Municipal bonds are also used, particularly when the resilience project is infrastructure-focused.

                  What kinds of projects and processes are most likely to be funded?

                  While funding is available for a wide variety of projects and processes, finding funding is facilitated when projects: have clearly-defined outcomes that are expected to lead to increased resilience, include a robust community engagement plan, explicitly incorporate consideration of equity throughout the process, and prioritize nature-based solutions. See the Ready-to-Fund Resilience Toolkit and C2ES's Leveraging Federal Funds for Local Impact.

                  Is there a resource that will point me to funding sources for my project?

                  Unfortunately, there is not yet a single searchable resource to help find funding sources. However, for infrastructure-based projects, there is a searchable resource, the Local Infrastructure Hub, to help communities find funding resources related to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. The financing tools table in the Ready-to-Fund Resilience Toolkit may also be helpful.

                  Where can I find assistance with identifying sources and submitting grant applications?

                  NOAA's Climate Adaptation Partnerships (CAP) may have resources available. For example, the NW reslience collaborative awarded community grants in 2023 to support justice-focused, environmental and climate projects that advance community-centered resilience priorities. Check with your regional CAP program to see if there are current funding opportunities available.

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