Growing Returns

Selected tag(s): climate change

Three ways to make home buyouts more efficient

By: Gabrielle Rosario, EDF Intern

Each year, flood risk increases from sea level rise and storms, raising major concerns among millions of homeowners. Flooding can inundate homes, damage property and cause safety and health concerns, as well as isolate residents from essential government services like trash pickup or emergency vehicle access. In fact, by 2030, over 20 million Americans will be at risk of inundation due to sea level rise, and many will be unable to afford to move.  

Managed retreat policies, such as voluntary home buyouts, can facilitate the relocation of residents out of increasingly flood-prone communities. But unfortunately, existing federal programs are slow and require local governments to meet complex and challenging guidelines. 

Innovative approaches are needed to make buyouts more efficient. Here are three strategies that can help: 

1. Establish state-level buyout programs

States can establish state-level flood buyout programs in which a state department funds, organizes and manages home acquisitions in local governments. On average, these programs are faster, less complex and provide more flexibility compared to federal programs. 

A great example is New Jersey’s Blue Acres program, a state buyout program under the Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP). Since its founding in 1995, the NJDEP has spent $190 million to acquire more than 1,000 properties with an average processing time of six to 12 months to complete, compared to an average five years for buyouts funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). And in 2022, the state allocated another $50 million to continue to grow this impactful program.

Blue Acres also builds strong relationships with localities by inviting them into the decision-making process through comprehensive community engagement and outreach. Additionally, NJDEP employs staffers with diverse backgrounds, including human ecologists, planners and social workers that have the capacity and technical expertise to help localities through each step of the process.

2. Develop state or local funding mechanisms to finance buyouts

States can help fund local buyout programs and reduce the cost-share requirements of federal programs, which can be a burden for local governments with limited budgets. 

For instance, state bonds can shorten a buyout process from 18 months to as little as three. States may also use revolving loan funds, which provide low-interest loans to localities and are funded by interest and principal payments from older loans so the program can operate cyclically. Finally, states can use grant programs, which provide debt-free funding to localities for flood buyouts.  

Local governments can also choose to fund buyouts with their own budgets, which are on average quicker and allow for greater control over the process, which can lessen burdens to meet complex federal requirements.  

Charlotte-Mecklenburg, North Carolina serves as an example of a successful locally-funded buyout program. As the area was unable to meet the complex requirements laid out by FEMA, the county created its own funding mechanism. The program now utilizes funding from local stormwater utility fees, allowing the county to streamline its process and quickly purchase homes after floods. Since 1999, the program has purchased more than 400 properties, and the buyouts take an average of six months to complete. 

3. Build capacity for local buyout programs

Many local communities lack the expertise and capacity to apply for federal funding and are unable to implement buyouts on their own. An effective strategy is for federal and state agencies to provide technical assistance or training to local governments on buyout applications.  

At the federal level, FEMA and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development should develop buyout training modules for communities, including grant application workshops or cost-benefit analysis training. They can also increase funding for staffing at the state level, which would assist communities applying to federal grants. 

Increasing state agency staffing across multiple departments can also provide support for local governments, including training, templates, technical advice and interim reviews to localities, which in turn builds local governments’ capacity to implement buyouts. Greater staffing could also improve transparency of government actions during buyouts, as there are more staff dedicated to communicating with residents to explain the process. This can thereby build residents’ trust in government, leading to smoother implementation. 

With flood risks increasing across the country in coastal and inland areas alike, we need more tools in the toolbox to make our communities more resilient to climate change. Improving access to and the effectiveness of voluntary flood buyouts will help Americans adapt to a climate-driven future. 


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Closing the enteric methane emissions innovation gap: A call for funding high-quality research

By Peri Rosenstein and Nicole Jenkins

Methane emissions are a potent greenhouse gas, warming the climate more than 80 times faster than carbon dioxide on a 20-year timescale. Rapidly and significantly reducing methane is the most effective way to reduce the rate of warming, especially over the next few decades. 

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Good manure management must involve ammonia emissions, too

When it comes to livestock and environmental impacts, methane emission reductions are often top of mind — and for good reason. Lowering methane emissions from animal agriculture is one of the fastest ways to slow down climate change. However, important local air pollutants like ammonia are seldom discussed with the same frequency or urgency.

Agriculture needs a path forward that jointly addresses its global climate impacts and its local environmental and public health impacts in an equitable way. Methane and ammonia must be managed in tandem. Read More »

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Revisiting a centuries-old approach to farming that embraces water scarcity.

As discussions at COP28 wrestle with climate impacts on global food and water security, we hear from a Hopi farmer on his thriving practice of dry farming and his hopes for shared learning in Dubai.


The arid climate of the Hopi reservation in northeastern Arizona receives a mere 8.5 inches of annual rainfall. For perspective, the yearly United States average is 30 inches. Despite this severe aridity, for over 3,000 years, the Hopi people have stewarded an extraordinary agricultural tradition centered on dry farming.

Dr. Michael Kotutwa Johnson is an Indigenous Resiliency Specialist at the University of Arizona and a leading practitioner of Hopi dry farming — a form of agriculture that eschews irrigation in regions with limited water moisture. As a 250th-generation Hopi dry farmer, his ongoing traditional practices are a  testament to the power of cultural values and the potential of climate-adaptive farming. These ongoing Hopi farming practices defy modern notions of crop needs and vulnerability in areas with limited irrigation and water supply.

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Water is a high-level priority at COP 28, we need to look to ground-level users for solutions

Water has finally reached the highest levels of global climate negotiations. The path to a sustainable freshwater future, however, lies with ground-level users. At COP 28, EDF is elevating their voices, their needs and the approaches they find most useful.


While greenhouse gases drive climate change, many of its impacts are inherently liquid. Whether through drought, flood, sea-level rise, or contamination, water increasingly forms the turbulent core of the climate crisis.

Over the past year, this basic reality was finally acknowledged at the global planning table.  Thanks to a strong push from its Egyptian hosts, last year’s edition of the main UN climate conference, COP 27, made water a central theme. The cover decision — the summation of the conference’s key agreements — featured water and food for the first time. The decision acknowledged the central role of water in countering climate impacts and called for water-related targets in national climate planning.

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Learning from shared scarcity: the Colorado River, the Yellow River and the world

This blog is co-authored by Yiwei Gan.

One of the largest rivers in the world struggles to reach the ocean. Spread across a huge slice of a continent, its basin supports millions. Yet the weight of its work to irrigate and power booming farms and cities in an increasingly arid zone is straining the river to a breaking point. For many working in the western water space, this describes the Colorado. A river whose over-work and over-allocation, despite its fundamental role in sustaining life for half a continent, seems in many ways singular.  

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For some Texans, a day without water is not imaginary – it is an unfortunate reality

In Presidio County, running water is a luxury that some residents do not enjoy. Families in Las Pampas, a Colonia near the Mexican border, must truck water from the City of Presidio to their homes north of town, spending money and time to secure what many Texans take for granted – running water and the economic opportunity this provides. Decades ago, when Las Pampas was first developed, a few groundwater wells supplied water to homes and even a restaurant, but the wells were poorly constructed and too shallow to access reliable underground water in this desert region.  Eventually, they stopped flowing, and Las Pampas literally dried up. Read More »

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Hispanic Heritage Month: meet local leaders helping communities address key water issues

As Hispanic Heritage Month ends, we celebrate our Hispanic Water Leadership Institute alumni making a difference in their communities.

Nearly 20% of the United States identifies as Hispanic. The largest minority group in the country is also the largest group disproportionately impacted by contaminated groundwater. This is due to a lack of resources and widespread inequities in funding, policies, investment in water infrastructure and education. Read More »

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Climate, agriculture, and finance: exploring connections at the Fed

Maggie Monast on a panel at the The Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City’s 2023 Agricultural Symposium, “The Changing Geography of Agricultural Production.”

Maggie Monast as a panelist at the The Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City’s 2023 Agricultural Symposium, “The Changing Geography of Agricultural Production.”

The Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City’s 2023 Agricultural Symposium, “The Changing Geography of Agricultural Production,” explored the factors driving changes in where and how agricultural commodities are produced, disruptions that are leading to further geographical differences, and the role of investments and farm policy in the years ahead.

I had the honor of joining as a panelist with representatives from Farmer Mac and Rabo AgriFinance, where I shared EDF’s perspective on how climate change affects agricultural production and finance. Climate impacts on agriculture, from catastrophic weather events to temperature and rainfall variability, increase risks for farmers and their financial partners. This pattern of increasing disruption directly affects food availability, prices, and ultimately, what ends up on our plates. As one of my fellow panelists noted, “The one certainty in agriculture today is volatility.” Read More »

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EDF and partners launch interactive Grand Canyon website

A new website from EDF, American Rivers, and Four Corners Mapping provides a special look at the Grand Canyon through an educational, interactive journey. The interactive tool invites people to take a tour through the Grand Canyon and learn how the complexities of the Colorado River crisis impact the Grand Canyon and its surrounding communities and ecosystems through words, images, and short videos. Read More »

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