Meg Hamele

Project title: Integrating Climate Change into State Hazard Mitigation Plans: A Five-year Follow-up Survey

Degree: MPH | Program: Environmental and Occupational Health (EOH) | Project type: Thesis/Dissertation
Completed in: 2023 | Faculty advisor: Nicole Errett


Climate change is increasing the frequency and intensity of disaster events globally, resulting in heightened risks to human life, economic security, ecosystem health, and overall well-being. Hazard Mitigation Planning, overseen by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), is one tool used to reduce disaster risk by identifying potential hazards and taking action to reduce their impact. While FEMA policy requires states and territories to consider the risks of climate change in their plans, guidance remains broad, leading to different approaches of climate change integration in State Hazard Mitigation Plans (SHMPs). This study builds off a 2018 survey of State and Territorial Hazard Mitigation Officers (SHMOs); 56 SHMOs were invited to participate in an updated electronic survey to assess how the integration of climate change in SHMPs has evolved over the last five years. A majority of the 30 respondents (96.7%) recognized their jurisdiction is vulnerable to climate change and with a similar proportion agreeing climate change is a threat to their jurisdiction both now and in the future. Leading motivating factors for integrating climate change into SHMPs included increased evidence for climate change projections, and disasters in their jurisdiction or a neighboring jurisdiction (73.3%). The most frequently reported barrier was the reliance on historical patterns of hazard exposure (46.7%). Furthermore, the majority (90%) of states are incorporating at least one climate change adaptation strategy into SHMPs. Despite this, most states reported having insufficient resources to plan for and implement climate-related mitigation activities. Findings suggest that state and territorial hazard mitigation planning programs are trending towards further integration of climate change into plans, or are more aware of risks climate change poses to their state, when compared to 2018. Further research is needed to illuminate how to best support state-level hazard mitigation program response to climate change.