Managed Retreat in the Face of Climate Change, Part 1

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In the first episode of a two-part podcast interview for CleanTech Talk, Michael Barnard, Chief Strategist of TFIE Strategy Inc. and CleanTechnica contributor, and Dr. A.R. Siders, core faculty at the University of Delaware’s Disaster Research Center, sit down to talk about A.R.’s work as a preeminent U.S. researcher in managing retreat in the face of climate change.

You can listen to the full conversation in the embedded player below. Below that embedded SoundCloud player is a brief summary of the topics covered, but tune into the podcast to follow the full discussion.

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A.R. Siders has been working on how communities are adapting to the effects of climate change. She has a particular interest in coastal communities and communities living near water facing challenges such as sea level rise, floods, and other water-related climate change impacts. After Hurricane Sandy, A.R. became interested in planned retreat, where communities and homeowners move away from areas of risk. While she had been hearing conversations about building back in areas that had been devastated, she recognized a need for discussions surrounding whether or not building back in the same areas was a good idea in the first place.

Mike and A.R. begin the podcast by diving into managed retreat. Mike shares his experience with managed retreat in Canada, and the two compare and contrast the challenges with managed retreat within Canada and the United States. As Mike explains, there has been a shift from talking about moving away from flooding rivers, to talking about coastal sea level rise, melting permafrost, and wildfire retreat. The risks, as A.R. points out, are still expanding as climate change impacts increase and worsen.

In the United States, A.R. explains, one of the biggest challenges is retreat and avoidance. Avoidance, or taking precautionary measures to not build in high-risk areas, for example, is going to be important, she explains. Mike and A.R. dive into the ways in which this strategy and the desires of the public and government intersect, combine and clash. They also touch briefly on environmental justice challenges, and the importance of asking the question: is the group that has to give up their homes also a group that has historically been burdened?

They then pivot their discussion to exploring the language surrounding managed versus planned retreat, and the communication challenges that different terms pose in convincing people to support retreat efforts. There is a need for the language to promote organized and supported efforts to plan, strategize and manage these challenges. In part two of this episode, A.R. and Mike will dive further into the importance of communication. 

To hear more on these topics, as well as a few examples of managed retreat and relocation efforts, listen to the show!

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