From Whitefish to Austin, communities respond to climate change with innovation

Student activists marched in Missoula earlier this year to call for action on climate change. Communities big and small across the country are taking innovative steps to address the challenge. (Martin Kidston/Missoula Current file photo)

(CN) – Worldwide ecological collapse triggered by climate change can feel like an insurmountable problem for any one community, or any individual, to tackle or even begin to reverse in a meaningful way.

But communities across the United States have taken up the challenge head-on, developing and completing bold environmental projects that help resist the negative effects of climate change.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science said in a multimedia report released Sunday that thousands of everyday people are collaborating with scientists on “community-based solutions” to climate change’s negative effects.

Using data and other input from scientists, U.S. communities underwent “vulnerability assessments” to understand the local risks from climate change, according to the report called “How We Respond.”

The impacts from climate change vary greatly from region to region around the world.

Once they assessed local risks, residents then worked with scientists to lay out options for projects that addressed needs in their environments.

The AAAS report documents 18 community projects around the nation, including a project to reduce carbon emissions by restoring natural habitats and a scheme that deploys sophisticated monitors to track sea level rise.

Community responses to complex civil engineering challenges, such as transportation planning and revamping food production and waste systems – which are normally addressed by large, bureaucratic institutions – are also highlighted in the report.

Residents involved in the projects hail from large cities such as New Orleans and Austin, Texas, as well as smaller ones like Whitefish, Montana, and Netarts Bay, Oregon.

In Davenport, Iowa, residents are working with scientists to build out natural wetlands and restore areas where wetlands once existed in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Wetland restoration work will also help Davenport protect against storm surges and prepare for a potential rise in sea levels, according to the report.

In Savannah, Georgia, residents launched a project to deploy sea-level sensors that provide real-time data on coastal flooding.

Other projects include restoration of salmon stocks in the Yurok Territory of California and improving efficiency of irrigation systems in Sheridan County, Kansas.

Emily Therese Cloyd, director of AAAS’ public engagement program, said in a statement that the report can be a roadmap for communities looking for ways to collaborate with local government, nonprofits and scientists to respond to the global climate crisis.

“We want to shine a light on how communities are taking action on climate change,” Cloyd said. “We hope ‘How We Respond’ gives communities ideas for how they can respond to climate change locally and ways that scientists and community members can work together to build stronger, more resilient communities.”