Preparing for Climate Impacts: Lessons Learned from the Front Lines - Georgetown Climate Center

In this synthesis report to the Kresge Foundation, the Georgetown Climate Center shares some of the lessons learned from its adaptation work in recent years.  The report includes a number of short case studies highlighting successful efforts and barriers to change.

This report begins with a discussion of the general roles that each level of government needs to play to facilitate and implement responses to climate change. Next, the report provides a brief synopsis of Georgetown Climate Center’s approach to integrating adaptation at each level of government, from planning to implementation. Finally, the report synthesizes the lessons the Center learned as it worked with states and communities.

Brief case studies are provided throughout to draw out lessons from some of the projects on which the Center has worked. These case studies provide examples from leading communities to highlight the real-world experiences of our government partners as they try to plan and implement adaptive solutions.


Take-home lessons discussed in the report include the following:

  • Any viable response to climate change adaptation must recognize the primacy of local governments but also work within multiple jurisdictional levels (states, counties, municipalities, regional planning organizations) and recognize their legal limitations.
  • Strong leadership is an essential factor in communities that pursue adaptive action. Implementing adaptive measures requires a significant investment of time, staff, and resources. To devise workable solutions, we must provide support to those actors who show the political will to be bold and experimental, to commit resources, and to build the capacity to implement measures on the ground.
  • Effective adaptation planning must lead to tangible actions and align with existing priorities in a community if it is to be successful.
  • Although adapting to climate change impacts should be a proactive endeavor, the reality is often the opposite, as communities consider changes in the wake of catastrophic events or near misses. Communities with well-developed plans and laws on the books in advance of a disaster, however, tend to be more effective in rebuilding resiliently.

Publication Date: July 9, 2014

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  • Best practice
  • Legal Analysis
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