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Between 1980-2019, the U.S. endured 250 climate and weather disasters that each cost more than $1 billion, resulting in a total cost exceeding $1.7 trillion. Climate change contributes to a variety of hazards including extreme precipitation, drought, sea level rise, storm surge, heat waves, and flooding, and this effect will worsen over time. While the onset of natural disasters may be unavoidable, forgoing the opportunity to plan for changing conditions and increasing risks puts citizens in the path of preventable danger. Further investing in pre-disaster preparation or other resilience-building activities can save considerable money down the road – and many lives.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) provides technical assistance to states to develop State Hazard Mitigation Plans (SHMPs) which serve as “blueprints” for state efforts to prepare for natural and man-made hazards. The Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (Stafford Act), the Disaster Mitigation Act of 2000, and other legislation set requirements for states to prepare these SHMPs as a condition for receiving certain federal grants to help communities prepare for and recover from future disasters. These plans offer an opportunity for states to integrate future climate projections and informed adaptation actions into their planning for hazard mitigation that can guide efforts across state agencies and applications for future funding. In 2016, FEMA put guidance into effect clarifying its interpretation that its regulations require SHMPs to consider changing future climate conditions (“2016 FEMA Climate Guidance”).

This report analyzes SHMPs issued since 2014 and assesses their compliance with the 2016 FEMA Climate Guidance. The report also ranks the SHMPs into 5 categories, with “1” indicating SHMPs that did not recognize climate change or did so inaccurately and “5” indicating plans with extensive consideration of how climate change will affect hazards, should be integrated across agencies and planning documents, and should be mitigated through adaptation actions. The report updates an earlier Sabin Center report, published in 2013, that ranked the states on their integration of climate change considerations in their then-current SHMPs (“2013 SHMP Report”). Since 2013 all 50 states have issued new SHMPs. This report therefore analyzes recent SHMPs in all 50 states and three U.S. territories to assess how states have changed their consideration of climate change. This assessment can help track progress in SHMP development, identify states resisting integrating climate change into their risk assessments, and serve as an initial look at whether the 2016 FEMA Climate Guidance is being followed in practice.


Environmental Law | Law