Growing Returns

Virginia Beach’s new flood bond can be a model for other cities. Here’s how.

Virginia Beach, the most populous city in the commonwealth with 38 miles of shoreline, faces increasing flood risk due to rising sea levels and more intense storms. Recurrent flooding hurts critical sectors including the military and tourism, both major contributors to the local economy. 

Fortunately, Virginia Beach voters took an important step to reduce flood risk in their community by passing a historic $567.5 million flood mitigation bond last month. This funding will not only reduce the city’s flood risk — it will also boost the economy and create thousands of jobs. 

As other cities across the country grapple with how to pay for the increasing costs of flood protection projects, here are four ways this bond serves as a model for success.  Read More »

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Natural infrastructure can address growing climate impacts and save hundreds of billions of dollars annually in the process

Across the world, more communities are experiencing significant impacts from our changing climate, with severe weather events becoming “the new norm” according to the recently released State of the Climate report. Without action, these disasters could require $20 billion in annual humanitarian aid according to the International Federation of Red Cross.

As world leaders meet this week in Scotland for COP26, they must do everything in their power to reduce emissions and avoid worsening climate scenarios. It is great to see critical attention to natural climate solutions like avoided tropical forest loss front and center at the COP.

At the same time, we must also invest in solutions that can save lives and property from those climate impacts that are already unavoidable. Fortunately, there are solutions that both reduce climate pollution and protect against impacts already being felt.  A new report by the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) provides insight into how to do that, showing that natural infrastructure can save hundreds of billions of dollars annually in climate adaptation costs, while delivering the same or better outcomes as traditional, hardened infrastructure.

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New Army Corps guidelines will expand natural infrastructure to reduce flood risk and more

This year has brought devastating flooding in the Netherlands, Germany, China, the U.S. and elsewhere. Globally, over 2.2 billion people are exposed to flooding, and that number is growing.

New research indicates the proportion of people living in floodplains since 2000 has increased by 20% to 24%, and climate change is further increasing flood risk with rising sea levels, more intense storms and extreme rainfall events. We need urgent action to protect people from these growing risks.

To this end, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) just released their “International Guidelines on the use of Natural and Nature-Based Features (NNBF) for Flood Risk Management.” Here’s why that’s a big deal.

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3 ways Virginia can continue to advance flood resilience statewide

Virginians are already seeing the impacts of climate change, from sea level rise along our coastlines to increased rainfall statewide. Without action, Virginians can expect $4.1 billion in annual losses to residential, commercial and public structures by 2080, with 171,000  acres of tidal marsh at risk of disappearing.

To better understand this risk, EDF worked with Virginia Conservation Network partners to release a policy paper that outlines Virginia’s flood risk and presents opportunities to build resilience.

Additionally, the Virginia Academy of Science, Engineering and Medicine recently released a report analyzing climate change impacts on Virginia’s coastal areas and offering specific ways to address them.

The sentiment of these two analyses is the same: Climate change is here, and we must act quickly to build resilience for our communities.

Here are three of the top recommendations for state leaders to take an equitable and comprehensive approach to flood resilience to protect Virginia’s communities, ecosystems, infrastructure and economy.

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3 ways New York and New Jersey can address flooding in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida

Hurricane Ida made landfall in Louisiana, bringing a path of destruction to many of the state’s coastal communities.

As the storm moved northeast, Ida brought record rainfall, to many states, including New York and New Jersey where devastating floods caused loss of life and millions in damages. The region has not experienced a storm on this scale since Superstorm Sandy in 2012.

And climate change is increasing flood risk with rainfall.

According to the Fourth National Climate Assessment, the heaviest rains in the Northeast already produce 55% more rain compared to the 1950s and could increase another 40% by 2100.

As the region begins recovery efforts, here are three actions that New York and New Jersey leaders can take to reduce climate-fueled flood risk.

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5 ways federal policymakers can bring equity into flood risk reduction

Flooding remains the costliest, most deadly natural disaster in the U.S., causing more than $1 trillion in damages since 1980.

As climate change continues to fuel more intense hurricanes, sea level rise and heavier rain events, more Americans are at risk from flooding than ever before. And federal resources to protect communities from flooding are not provided to all communities equitably.

This gap in protection is a direct result of unintentional, but consequential flaws in the current cost-benefit analyses that agencies like the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) use for flood protection projects.

Here are a few ways policymakers and coastal planners can help adjust cost-benefit analyses to expand access to flood protection and achieve more equitable results.

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4 strategies for policymakers to get more natural infrastructure in the ground, fast

Climate change is fueling increased flood risk across our nation’s coastal regions and floodplains. 

States and local communities are turning to natural infrastructure as a key solution to build long-term flood resilience. Natural and nature-based features like wetlands, dunes and reefs offer multiple protective benefits — from absorbing stormwater, to minimizing the shock of storm surge to reducing flood severity. 

However, identifying funding for natural infrastructure projects is not always straightforward.  

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Sea level rise threatens Miami’s future. Here’s how the Army Corps can help keep Florida, Florida.

Florida residents are on the frontlines of climate change, already facing sea level rise and increasing storm intensity. 

This is especially evident in Miami, due to its low-lying topography, porous limestone, dense coastal development and encroaching seas.  

To address these threats, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) produced the Miami-Dade Back Bay Coastal Storm Risk Management study. This multibillion-dollar proposal contains traditional, hardened infrastructure projects, including a massive seawall that would extend across Biscayne Bay in downtown Miami, reaching up to 20 feet in some places.

The proposal has received significant pushback from the public and stakeholders who are concerned about negative impacts to the environment, economy and quality of life.  

As the Corps seeks to address flood vulnerability in Miami and elsewhere, here are three ways the agency can reduce risk while also preserving the natural beauty of Florida’s coastal communities.

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Hurricane season is here. We need a national plan to protect our coastal communities.

The Atlantic hurricane season is underway as many coastal areas still recover from an endless barrage of storms last year that culminated in the most active hurricane season on record. With climate change, we can expect to see more intense hurricanes, leaving many communities at risk. 

In fact, a new report indicates that as many as 32 million U.S. homes and $8.5 trillion in assets are vulnerable to hurricane damage. 

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Virginia is taking bold climate action to address flood risk across the state

Climate change poses a significant threat to Virginia’s communities, infrastructure and economy. The state has the highest rates of sea level rise on the Atlantic seaboard with more than 34,000 buildings and 534 square miles of coastal land at risk of flooding by 2060, while more intense rainfall is also increasing flood risk statewide. 

Virginia’s state leadership is moving diligently to mitigate current and future flood threats by funding and implementing risk reduction and resilience projects across the commonwealth. 

Here’s how the state is tackling its flood risk problem with thoughtful planning and long-term funding.  Read More »

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