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Oregon Leads National Survey That Reveals Coastal Concerns over Climate Change

Three quarters of coastal professionals surveyed believe that the climate in their area is changing

By Pat Kight, Oregon Sea Grant (Photo Credit: Joe Cone, Oregon Sea Grant)

The American public may be divided over whether climate is changing, but coastal managers and elected officials in nine states say they see the change happening—and believe their communities will need to adapt.
That’s one finding from a NOAA Sea Grant research project, led by Oregon Sea Grant and involving multiple other Sea Grant programs, which surveyed coastal leaders in selected parts of the nation’s Atlantic, Pacific, Gulf and Great Lakes coasts, as well as Hawaii. 
Three quarters of coastal professionals surveyed – and 70% of all participants – said they believe that the climate in their area is changing—a marked contrast to results of some national surveys of the broader American public which have found diverse and even polarized views about climate change and global warming.
The Sea Grant survey was developed to understand what coastal/resource professionals and elected officials think about climate change, where their communities stand in planning for climate adaptation and what kinds of information they need, said project leader Joe Cone, assistant director of Oregon Sea Grant.  Sea Grant programs in Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois-Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Oregon, and Washington—states that represent most of NOAA’s coastal regions—took part, administering the survey at various times between January 2012 and November 2013. 
Among 30 questions, survey participants were asked how informed they felt about climate change in their area and whether they thought that the climate in their area is changing.  Participants identified where their agencies and communities stood in planning to adapt to climate change, and hurdles they have encountered and overcome. They also identified climate-related topics important to their work and how much information they had about those topics.
Overall, three-quarters of the 355 coastal/resource professionals who responded to the survey felt that the climate in their area is changing.  Most (68%)  felt that they were moderately- to very well-informed about the local effects of climate change. A common hurdle respondents encountered was a lack of agreement over the importance of  those effects.  Shoreline change and flooding concerns were among the topics respondents considered important to their own work.
A report published in February 2014 by Oregon Sea Grant presents the combined results for all survey respondents, as well as the responses from each participating state. The report can be found here: http://seagrant.oregonstate.edu/sgpubs/onlinepubs/s14001-national-climate-survey-report.pdf
This national survey, funded in part by Sea Grant’s national focus team on hazard resilient coastal communities, represents an initial attempt, said Cone, to understand the opinions and information needs of coastal/resource professionals regarding climate change adaptation and planning.  Participating Sea Grant programs are already using the survey results to assist communities develop local adaptation strategies. In addition, Cone said he hoped that this survey may stimulate additional survey research by Sea Grant, NOAA, and other coastal interests on this vital topic.
The full survey report is available from Oregon Sea Grant on the program’s news blog, Breaking Waves.

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