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Abstract

In response to the looming threat of global climate change, concerned citizens, businesses, and governments around the world are seeking to reduce their emissions in order to diminish the growing concentrations of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere. Unfortunately, no matter how successful these efforts to reduce emissions may be, it will not be enough to keep the climate from changing. Greenhouse gasses remain in the upper atmosphere for decades, or even centuries, meaning the climate will continue to change for a long time to come, no matter what we do to slow down or reverse the process. Nations and communities around the world must focus not only on reducing the concentration of climate change-causing greenhouse gas emissions, but also on the measures necessary to address the impacts of climate change like rising sea levels, droughts, flooding, and erosion.

While some cities and states in the United States have already begun planning their strategies to adapt to these changes, most have not. Those that have begun are, for the most part, not part of any broader comprehensive and coordinated approach to addressing the potential impacts they face, many of which will affect wide regions that do not obey jurisdictional boundaries. In contrast, the Netherlands, motivated by its uniquely perilous situation, has begun working nationally on a concerted effort to both reduce its emissions and adapt its infrastructure and way of life to the changing climate. Among the Dutch efforts to “climate proof” their country is the adaptation of their land use management system. Land use law provides a unique tool for effective climate change adaptation because it impacts almost every aspect of daily life.

This presentation argues that the United States should adopt a more integrated, comprehensive, and coordinated system of land use planning, similar to that used by the Netherlands, in order to make the changes necessary to adapt to climate change. It is intended as a recommendation for a more effective approach to U.S. climate policy and disaster planning rather than a specific, detailed policy prescription. Events like Hurricane Katrina and the repeated flooding along the Mississippi have exposed just how under-prepared the United States is to deal with the full brunt of the impacts driven by climate change. This presentation offers one strategy that could allow government and stakeholders in the private sector to generate a strong, promising plan for adaptation. The goal of this proposal is to inspire a cohesive governmental framework that brings all stakeholders to the table and incorporates their adaptation needs and limitations into a comprehensive planning scheme that enables a quick and effective response to natural disasters. As illustrated by efforts in the Netherlands, an effective planning framework can prevent major disasters or, at the very least, reduce the amount of damage and loss of life that may result.


Speaker Bio

Damien Leonard is a third-year law student at Georgetown University Law Center. He graduated from the University of Rochester in 2002, and earned a Master’s Degree in Social Sciences from the University of Chicago in 2006. Following his studies in Chicago, Damien spent a year as a legislative fellow with the New York State Senate before attending Georgetown. As a native of Massachusetts, Damien developed an abiding love of the woods, mountains, and rocky coasts of New England at an early age. In law school, he has combined this passion for the outdoors with his academic pursuits by focusing on issues of environmental, land use and energy law and policy. He currently serves as the Executive Editor of the Writing Program on the Georgetown International Environmental Law Review, and is a clinical student in the environmental section of Georgetown’s Institute for Public Representation.

Funding provided by the Climate Program Office, National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration to the University of Wisconsin Sea Grant Institute.
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