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Adaptation Examples in the Southeast

Map of the Southeast including: Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, Arkansas, Mississippi, Louisiana, and eastern Texas.

Adaptation Examples in the Southeast

Key Points
  • Four counties in Southeastern Florida created a Regional Compact to unify their efforts to address the coastal impacts of climate change.
  • Many Southeastern states are taking action to address sea level rise: Georgia is monitoring shoreline erosion rates, South Carolina is taking steps to improve beach and shoreline management, and Louisiana is improving flood protection infrastructure.
  • North Carolina is preparing for several climate change threats, including sea level rise, severe storms, flooding, heat waves, and droughts.
  • EPA's Climate Ready Estuaries program supports several projects throughout the Southeast related to coastal adaptation.


North Carolina


Federal and Regional

The Southeastern states are home to approximately 70 million residents. Bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the east and the Gulf of Mexico to the South, the Southeast is home to a diverse range of land- and seascapes ranging from the coral reefs of the Florida Keys to the mountains of southern Appalachia. The states are already familiar with climate-related and coastal hazards, including hot and humid summers, tornados, and hurricanes. As the climate changes, the Southeastern states will likely have to deal with sea level rise, increased Atlantic hurricane intensity, higher storm surges, more intense precipitation events, habitat changes, more severe droughts, increasing temperatures and heat waves, and salt water intrusion. [1]

To learn more about the climate change impacts in the Southeast, visit the Southeast Impacts section. For more information about climate change impacts on coastal areas, visit the Coastal Impacts & Adaptation page.

What follows are examples of ongoing efforts to adapt to climate change impacts in the Southeast at the local, state, and federal level. Given its long, low lying, and storm-prone coastline, many of these examples are focused on coastal issues; however, additional areas for adaptation (e.g., preparing for heat waves) are increasingly being addressed. In the Related Links box on the side of this page, there is a list of links to a number of adaptation plans, reports, and studies specific to the region. Both the examples and links are intended to be illustrative — they are not intended to be comprehensive.

A collaborative effort in Florida protects against sea level rise

The Southeast Florida Region's low land elevations and location along the Atlantic Ocean make it particularly vulnerable to sea level rise, flooding, and tropical storms. In 2009, during the Local Climate Leadership Summit, officials from the region realized that they were presenting slightly different projections about similar potential risks. [2] The four Southeast Florida counties (Broward, Miami-Dade, Palm Beach, and Monroe) created the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact to unify efforts. The Compact counties established a unified sea level rise projection (PDF) Exit EPA Disclaimer for the region, identified consistent methods for mapping inundation and assessing the vulnerability of resources to sea level rise, and successfully advocated for the Florida Legislature to recognize the term "Adaptation Action Areas" where flooding from sea level rise or storm surges will place public and private infrastructure at risk. [3] The Compact also published a Regional Climate Action Plan. Exit EPA Disclaimer

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Map of Florida that outlines the Southeast portion of the state. Within the outline, a portion of the land is highlighted in yellow.

The Biscayne Aquifer, in yellow, is a shared resource between the four counties in the Southeast Florida Region, outlined in black. Saltwater intrusion from sea level rise may threaten drinking water supply quality for the four counties. Source: USGS (2010) (PDF)

Southeastern states address sea level rise

With the assistance of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management (NOAA/OCRM), many Southeastern states are addressing sea level rise through research, modeling, mapping, and developing planning documents, including the following examples.

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Photograph of levee.

Recent upgrades that raised the height of this earthen levee increased protection against storm surge in the New Orleans area. Source: USGCRP (2009) (PDF)

North Carolina prepares for climate change

North Carolina is preparing for several climate change threats, including sea level rise, severe storms, flooding, heat waves, and droughts. [6] In 2010, the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources (NCDENR) Exit EPA Disclaimer published the Climate Change Initiative Strategy Framework Exit EPA Disclaimer to identify feasible mitigation and adaptation strategies addressing sea level rise, climate-sensitive ecosystems, water management, public health impacts, emergency preparedness, and land use planning and development. The North Carolina Interagency Leadership Team Exit EPA Disclaimer organized a statewide climate change adaptation workshop in 2010 — "Planning for North Carolina's Future: Ask the Climate Question."

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Climate Ready Estuaries program addresses climate change in coastal areas

Logo for the EPA Climate Ready Estuaries program.

Source: EPA

Several National Estuary Programs (NEPs) in the Southeast are working with EPA's Climate Ready Estuaries Program to address climate change in coastal areas. For example:

  • The Charlotte Harbor NEP Exit EPA Disclaimer conducted a vulnerability assessment, identified climate change indicators, and worked with the City of Punta Gorda, Florida to develop adaptation options.
  • The Indian River Lagoon NEP assisted the City of Satellite Beach, Florida to assess sensitivity to sea level rise and is investigating changes in wetland habitat to inform future land-use and conservation plans.
  • The Sarasota Bay Estuary Program Exit EPA Disclaimer is developing an adaptation plan that includes public outreach and supports updating local comprehensive plans with adaptation measures.
  • The Tampa Bay Estuary Program Exit EPA Disclaimer is working to identify actions for improving resiliency in estuarine restoration and protection plans in all coastal communities along the Gulf Coast.
  • The Albemarle-Pamlico NEP Exit EPA Disclaimer held public listening sessions to discuss the combined impacts of sea level rise and population growth and is developing an adaptation communication strategy for policy makers.

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[1] USGCRP (2009). Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States. Karl, T.R., J. M. Melillo, and T. C. Peterson (eds.). United States Global Change Research Program. Cambridge University Press, New York, NY, USA.

[2] Institute for Sustainable Communities (2010). Promising Practices in Adaptation & Resilience. Version 1.0. (PDF) Exit EPA Disclaimer Produced in partnership with Center for Clean Air Policy.

[3] Broward County. Southeast Florida Regional Climate Compact . Exit EPA Disclaimer Accessed 03/16/2012

[4] Rubinoff, P. N.D. Vinhateiro, C. Piecuch. (2008). Summary of Coastal Program Initiatives that address Sea Level Rise as a result of Global Climate Change. (PDF) Exit EPA Disclaimer Rhode Island Sea Grant/Coastal Resources Center, University of Rhode Island.

[5] North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources. Estuarine Shoreline Mapping Project . Exit EPA Disclaimer

[6] North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources. One North Carolina Naturally. Projected Climate Threats to North Carolina . Exit EPA Disclaimer

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