Adapting to Climate Change While Planning for Disaster: Footholds, Rope Lines, and the Iowa Floods

This report uses the example of flood recovery after the 2008 Midwest floods to propose a more effective way for federal, state, and municipal governments to work together to address the impacts of climate change. The Environmental Protection Agency conducted a pilot project providing technical assistance to vulnerable cities in eastern Iowa, and the analysis was utilized as a case study for this report. The results of the Iowa Pilot Project are relevant to many climate change adaptation efforts around the country. 

The first section of the article describes how climate change is increasing the risk of catastrophic events and describes the general challenges of scope, scale, and uncertainty in adaptation management planning. The federal government’s recent efforts toward climate adaptation and the work of the Adaptation Task Force, which supported the Iowa Pilot Project, is reviewed.  This pilot project attempted to identify some of the important roles that federal agencies play in local land-use and disaster planning, and then address how well these federal agencies are able to support community adaptation to climate change. The study ultimately presented three universal challenges in formulating adaptation policy: coordinating efforts across government sectors, coordinating efforts among levels of government, and developing an action model that can successfully move forward in the context of great uncertainty. The report concludes with a summary of lessons learned and considerations of potential next steps.


Publication Date: December 20, 2011

Authors or Affiliated Users:

  • Robert R.M. Verchick
  • Abby Hall

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Resource Types:

  • Best practice
  • Case study
  • Policy analysis/recommendations

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