The Many Small Ways Americans Are Adapting to Climate Change

Mother Jones

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This story first appeared on the Atlantic website and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

In March of this year, a Gallup poll highlighted an interesting tension in American thinking on global warming: While a majority of respondents said they believe global warming has already begun, a majority also said they don’t expect to suffer any hardships from global warming within their lifetimes. What the survey didn’t ask was how many people across the country are already reacting to rising temperatures—and preparing for those ahead.

This past summer, twenty-somethings Allie Goldstein and Kirsten Howard took a road trip to document stories of what they call “climate resilience”—examples of individuals and communities finding creative ways to adapt to hotter summers, stronger storms, bigger wildfires, rising sea levels, and more. They visited 31 states and offset their minivan’s carbon emissions by purchasing carbon credits from Terrapass. Whether learning about Ann Arbor, Michigan’s newly structured stormwater utility or evaluating the use of public art to mark evacuation routes in New Orleans, Goldstein and Howard found these examples everywhere they looked—suggesting that perhaps the rest of us don’t have to travel far at all to witness similar initiatives being implemented.

In some places, climate change is an explicit factor driving a city’s action; such is the case in Baltimore, Maryland, which has a Climate Action Plan and a recently appointed “Hazard Mitigation and Adaptation Planner” who is trying to build more tree canopy in the city’s neighborhoods so that residents may benefit from increased shade during heat waves. In addition to combating the “urban heat island effect” (increased canopy can cool the city by up to 9 degrees Fahrenheit), planting more trees has a host of other benefits: increasing property values and decreasing crime, according to Goldstein. These “co-benefits” were observed all around the country, Goldstein says, pointing out that sometimes “responding to climate change” is a co-benefit in itself, tertiary to the main goal of attracting tourists or reducing crime.

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The Many Small Ways Americans Are Adapting to Climate Change

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