New England Climate Adaptation Project

Goal

Test an innovative way to help coastal communities understand and prepare for the potential impacts of climate change.

Project Summary

The Wells Reserve is one of four National Estuarine Research Reserves in New England partnering with communities to test the use of role-play simulations as a means to educate the public about climate change threats, and to help communities explore ways of decreasing their vulnerability and enhancing their resilience.

Tailored specifically for each community, these simulations were designed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Science Impact Collaborative and the Consensus Building Institute to engage participants in a mock decision-making process about key climate change risks facing their community, such as the possibility of severe sea level rise and related impacts on coastal infrastructure. The simulations were based upon local climate change projections, risk assessments, and in-depth discussions with key community members and public officials in each town or city. The simulations were run from June to December 2013; 8 workshops hosted in Wells with 115 participants; 7 workshops in Barnstable with 150 participants; 7 workshops in Cranston with 170 participants; and 8 workshops in Dover with 120 participants, totaling more than 500 participants in New England.

This project has provided valuable insights into techniques for engaging communities in public learning, risk management, and collaborative decision-making around science-intensive public disputes. It is also informing the development of a model approach that communities in New England and elsewhere can use to address climate change.


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