Climate Institute to Open at UConn

A new research center to help residents, communities, and businesses better prepare for the impacts of more severe weather and rising sea levels will open at UConn’s Avery Point campus in Groton.

The Institute for Community Resiliency and Climate Adaptation will bring together experts in the natural sciences, engineering, economics, political science, finance and law, according to Gov. Dannel Malloy’s office.

“Over the past couple of years, our state has witnessed severe weather events that have threatened lives, destroyed property, damaged our infrastructure, and inflicted billions of dollars in harm to our state’s economy,” Malloy said.  “We must find ways to reduce the risks posed by the extreme weather that climate change is bringing to Connecticut and beyond.”

The plan for the Institute for Community Resiliency and Climate Adaptation is included in Special Act 13-9 and the work is being jumpstarted after a court settlement of an environmental violations case that earmarked $2.5 million in funding for it. 

The Hartford Courant reports that the settlement was the settlement between the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and Unilever.

UConn and DEEP are looking for additional funding as well.

“This Institute will be a world-class, cutting edge center that harnesses the research and outreach capabilities of UConn with the practical regulatory expertise of Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection,” Malloy said. “It will take sound scientific research and turn it into concrete local actions needed to better adapt to the changing climate and improve the future resilience and sustainability of Connecticut’s coastline and inland watersheds.”

Areas the institute will focus on include:

  • Improving scientific understanding of the changing climate and its local and regional impacts;
  • Encouraging strategies that will reduce the loss of life, property, natural resources and limit social disruption from future high impact weather events as well as from sea level rise, flooding, erosion and other hazards – while respecting environmental resources, the ecology, and aquatic and wildlife.
  • Hardening of the electric grid and shoreline infrastructure such as roads, bridges, train tracks, and wastewater treatment plants;
  • Designing innovative financial options for property owners seeking to make their homes and businesses more resilient;
  • Workshops and on-line decision support tools for regional and local officials;
  • Increasing public understanding of climate issues so that residents and community leaders can make scientifically informed and environmentally sound decisions about climate adaptation.

“Work at the Institute will ultimately ensure that Connecticut has the tools needed to make our coastline and coastal communities more resilient,” UConn President Susan Herbst said in a statement. “The Institute will build upon UConn’s rich history of excellence in Marine Science research, Long Island Sound preservation and coastal observation and protection.”   

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal said major storms, including Sandy and Irene, “have spelled disaster and destruction for far too many Connecticut families, communities, and businesses.”

He called the new institute “a profoundly important and positive step in preventing climate change and its tragic, costly consequences.”

U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy also released a statement.

"We’ve long-since reached a point in Connecticut when it’s no longer enough to rebuild the damage done to our state by massive storms. We need to be smarter about both how we rebuild and how we prepare for the impacts of future severe storms. Our coastal communities need strong science and robust planning to help gird for these new challenges, and I was thrilled to be able to advocate for this worthy project at the federal level," Murphy said.

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