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Building strong, more resilient communities that can adapt to a changing climate

Climate resilience and adaptation

Because we are already experiencing the effects of climate change, we not only need to cut our greenhouse gas emissions but also adapt to a changing climate.

Person sweeping water out of flooded house, photo credit Star Tribune

Climate adaptation is about developing and implementing strategies to help human and natural systems cope with and become more resilient to the impacts of climate change.

Resilience is the capacity of a community, individual, business, or natural environment to prevent, withstand, respond, and recover from acute shocks and stressors.

Inequitable climate impacts

Climate change is likely to bring more abrupt and challenging situations, such as flash floods or severe weather, that worsen existing disparities. A climate hazard, such as water in the basement, could be an inconvenience for some, a manageable problem for others, or a catastrophic event for those without the means to respond.&

To illustrate this point, as winters have been warming, Hennepin County has seen an increase in winter rains. Rainwater flowing toward snow-covered stormwater intakes cannot infiltrate frozen soils and pools in the lowest spots.

When winter rainwater flows into residential and commercial basements, the owner’s or renter’s financial ability to respond determines whether the damage is inconvenient, manageable, or catastrophic. The property of those without the financial means to repair the water damage may end up in tax forfeiture.

Strengthening our community

Group of kids ice skating

Building a more resilient community ensures we are better prepared for more abrupt and challenging situations. This can happen at both the individual and community level.

For example when it comes to water damage in buildings, building stronger communities could include providing financial assistance to individuals to help residents prevent or repair water damage and increasing stormwater holding capacity in areas most prone to flooding to protect communities.

Strategies in the Climate Action Plan to strengthen individual and community resilience include:

  • Monitoring and communicating climate risks.
  • Fostering relationships with communities to listen and respond with people-centered solutions
  • Promoting best practices in the areas of preventing pest-borne diseases, like Lyme’s disease, and managing indoor air quality, wet basements, and mold.
  • Being better prepared for extreme heat or cold and severe storms, to help prevent overheating, frost bite, or even drowning.
  • Plan for population growth due to people relocating from areas facing more severe climate impacts and exploring lessons learned from previous climate shocks to prepare for climate refugees.

Aligning with disparity reduction

Hennepin County is committed to reducing disparities. The county defines disparities as differences in areas of life that result in one group having a disproportionate burden of negative life outcomes.

To show how climate resilience aligns with disparity reduction, the county modified a climate resiliency framework used by many organizations to show how it overlaps with the county's disparity reduction domains.

The climate resilience framework are show in the blue circles in the diagram below, while the county’s the disparity reduction domains are shown in the green inner circle.

Circle diagram with disparity reduction domains aligned with climate resilience framework

Other actions

Boy sitting on playground

Reducing racial disparities and seeking climate justice

The impacts of the climate crisis are not felt equally, making the response to climate change a justice issue that requires authentically engaging with communities, advancing efforts to dismantle systemic racism, and reducing disparities.

Woman standing at front of room giving a presentation

Engaging with the public and supporting community-driven solutions

Recognizing that transformative climate policies must be driven and supported by the public, the county is engaging residents and listening to how climate change is impacting them to collectively build support for solutions.

Group of people in a conference room standing at a wall discussing ideas

Working with public entity partners for greater impact

Public entity partners, including cities, watershed organizations, park districts, and other regional and state units of government, are very interested in pursuing mutually beneficial climate goals and encouraged the county to serve in a role of convener.