E7: Using Science to Help Local Governments Prepare for Climate Change

Most rural towns and small and mid-sized cities do not have direct access to climate scientists to help them understand their specific climate change vulnerabilities, which vary by location, geography, and local assets. These communities face both the impacts of the climate change crisis as well as technical and financial capacity constraints that often leave them without the resources to hire consultants or the staff capacity to lead essential planning and implementation processes. Boundary organizations are addressing these gaps by offering cohort-training programs, community-specific geospatial analysis tools, and decision-support frameworks that merge climate science with visual representations and support analysis and decision-making in local government.

In this session, participants will hear about three climate resources developed for small and mid-sized local governments in the US. Presenters will focus on the misalignments between available science and what local governments need; communication difficulties; and how local leaders are using these tools to prepare their communities and most vulnerable residents for the impacts of climate change.

Indiana University’s Environmental Resilience Institute will provide an analysis of local governments’ use of the Hoosier Resilience Index, a tool to help town, city, and county government employees understand the climate change vulnerabilities specific to their communities, and evaluate and improve progress toward resilience using science-based solutions. Headwaters Economics, an independent, nonprofit research group, will discuss the local government feedback they received during the development of their Neighborhoods at Risk tool, which provides a platform for individual cities and counties in the U.S. to geospatially analyze how climate change and existing land use patterns impact socially vulnerable neighborhoods differently. Finally, the Geos Institute will share experiences working with mid-sized and small local governments through the Climate Ready Communities assisted do-it-yourself model.


  • Andrea Webster, Implementation Manager, Environmental Resilience Institute, Indiana University
  • Patty Gude, Associate Director, Headwaters Economics
  • Tonya Graham, Executive Director, Geos Institute
  • Janet McCabe, Director, Environmental Resilience Institute, Indiana University