Adaptation Examples in the Southeast
Adaptation Examples in the Southeast
On This Page
- A collaborative effort in Florida protects against sea level rise
- Southeastern states address sea level rise
- 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.
Reports and Related Links
- Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact: Regional Climate Action Plan
- Broward County Climate Change Action Plan (PDF)
- Miami-Dade County Climate Advisory Task Force
- Municipal Adaptation to Sea-Level Rise: City of Satellite Beach, Florida (PDF)
- Adaptive Response Planning to Sea Level Rise in Florida and Implications for Comprehensive and Public-Facilities Planning (PDF)
- Florida Governor's Action Team on Energy and Climate Change Final Report
Federal and Regional
- EPA Region 3 (includes Virginia)
- EPA Region 4 (includes AL, FL, GA, KY, MS, NC, SC, and TN)
- EPA Region 6 (including the Southeast states of AR, LA, and TX)
- EPA Region 6 Water Quality Protection Division
- Southeast Natural Resource Leaders Group
- NRC America's Climate Choices: Adapting to the Impacts of Climate Change
- Southeast Regional Partnership for Planning and Sustainability
- The Resilient Coast: Policy Frameworks for Adapting the Built Environment to Climate Change and Growth in Coastal Areas of the U.S. Gulf of Mexico (PDF)
- USGCRP Synthesis Assessment Product 4.1, Coastal Sensitivity to Sea-Level Rise: A Focus on the Mid-Atlantic Region (Information on sea level rise impacts and adaptation in Virginia and North Carolina)
- USGCRP Synthesis Assessment Product 4.4: Preliminary review of adaptation options for climate-sensitive ecosystems and resources (Case studies on Albemarle-Pamlico National Estuary Program, Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, Uwharrie National Forest, Wekiva River)
- USGCRP, Synthesis Assessment Product 4.7, Impacts of Climate Variability and Change on Transportation Systems and Infrastructure—Gulf Coast Study
- EPA Southeast Adaptation Planning Workshop
- Georgetown Climate Center: Adaptation Clearinghouse
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. 
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.  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) 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.  The Compact also published a Regional Climate Action Plan.
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.
- The Georgia Sea Grant Program funded a study to assess shoreline change rates and coastal hazards on Georgia's barrier islands. 
- To monitor sea level rise, wetland loss, and erosion, the North Carolina Division of Coastal Management is working on a project to map the estuaries, shoreline types, and coastal structures in North Carolina. 
- To address coastal erosion, the South Carolina Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management regularly updates the "40-year setback line" that establishes boundaries for development and established a Shoreline Change Initiative to bring together researchers, agencies, and stakeholders to prepare for and adapt to shoreline changes. 
- In Louisiana, after Hurricane Katrina, the Army Corps of Engineers redesigned some levees and other flood protection structures to withstand higher storm surge and wave action. 
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.  In 2010, the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources (NCDENR) published the Climate Change Initiative Strategy Framework 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 organized a statewide climate change adaptation workshop in 2010 — "Planning for North Carolina's Future: Ask the Climate Question."
Climate Ready Estuaries program addresses climate change in coastal areas
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 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 is developing an adaptation plan that includes public outreach and supports updating local comprehensive plans with adaptation measures.
- The Tampa Bay Estuary Program 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 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.
 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.
 Institute for Sustainable Communities (2010). Promising Practices in Adaptation & Resilience. Version 1.0. (PDF) Produced in partnership with Center for Clean Air Policy.
 Broward County. Southeast Florida Regional Climate Compact . Accessed 03/16/2012
 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) Rhode Island Sea Grant/Coastal Resources Center, University of Rhode Island.