Great Lakes Integrated Sciences and Assessments has produced a critical new report with the help of Headwaters Economics and the Urban Sustainability Directors Network titled How to Use Economics to Build Support for Climate Adaptation. Co-produced with communities, the report is aimed at helping municipalities understand how to best make the case for local climate action. Focusing on the effective use of economic data and clear methods of communication, the report addresses the many complex and competing priorities that cities face – offering innovative solutions that help prioritize climate action at the municipal level.

A growing number of local governments are taking steps toward climate adaptation, mostly through the development of climate adaptation plans. However, the rate and pace of adaptation action has significantly lagged behind planning, especially in mid- and small-sized municipalities where resources are often limited and local politics may further delay action. The prevalence of response rather than proactive action is further exacerbated by the disproportionate level of federal disaster funding available for disaster response rather than planning and mitigation.

Local governments face an increasingly urgent need to adapt to a changing climate in ways that reflect their unique environmental, social, and economic conditions, all on a balanced budget and with limited federal support. How to Use Economics to Build Support for Climate Adaptation helps cities build data-driven, economic arguments that can be presented to a diverse range of partners in arenas of competing priorities – and was written and co-produced with the specific input and needs of cities across a spectrum of conditions.

Case studies of cities from San Antonio, Texas to Warren, Minnesota illustrate how cities large and small have used economic analyses to support their climate adaptation programs and increase their resilience to a changing climate. In Urbana, Illinois, sustainability staff have worked to understand residents’ barriers to adopting a new program, besides just costs. For a solar program, they have found success emphasizing costs in terms of payback period, as well as describing social norms (e.g., your neighbors are participating); emotional appeals (e.g., it is the right thing to do for future generations); and convenience (e.g., vetting contractors and soliciting bids to reduce legwork for homeowners).

GLISA, with the help of Headwaters Economics, researched and reported strategies, methods, and case studies of cities that have used economic data and methods to advance climate adaptation programs. The report was funded by the NOAA-supported Great Lakes Integrated Sciences and Assessments housed at the University of Michigan School for Environment and Sustainability.

The full report can be found here.