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Climate Institute Opens at UConn’s Avery Point Campus

The new research center strengthens the state’s efforts to prepare for impacts of severe weather, the governor says.

Avery Point UConn campus. Credit: Ellyn Santiago
Avery Point UConn campus. Credit: Ellyn Santiago

A news release issued Jan. 24 from the Governor's Office: 

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy today joined state and local officials for an event to launch the Institute for Community Resiliency and Climate Adaptation at UConn’s Avery Point Campus in Groton — a new research center designed to strengthen efforts to help residents, communities, and businesses better prepare for the impacts of more severe weather and rising sea levels.

“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.”

“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.  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.”

The Institute for Community Resiliency and Climate Adaptation was envisioned in Special Act 13-9.  The work of the Institute is being jumpstarted as a result of a recent court settlement of a case involving environmental violations that earmarked $2.5 million in funding for it. UConn and DEEP are also seeking additional funding for the work of the Institute.

The Institute — which will be a multi-disciplinary center bringing together experts in the natural sciences, engineering, economics, political science, finance and law — will focus on a variety of areas, including:

 

•   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,” said UConn President Susan Herbst. “The Institute will build upon UConn’s rich history of excellence in Marine Science research, Long Island Sound preservation and coastal observation and protection.”   

“Under Governor Malloy, Connecticut has taken the lead in efforts to reduce carbon emissions that are creating climate change with an energy strategy focused on efficiency and renewables and participation in a regional initiative aimed at reducing emissions from power plants,” said outgoing DEEP Commissioner Daniel C. Esty.  “At that same time, however, we must also focus on strategies to adapt to more frequent and severe storms – as well as the gradual changes we are going to see as a result of carbon emissions already in the atmosphere.  The new Institute at Avery Point will help us do just that.”

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal said, “Superstorms such as Sandy and Irene have spelled disaster and destruction for far too many Connecticut families, communities, and businesses. Today’s launch of the Avery Institute marks a profoundly important and positive step in preventing climate change and its tragic, costly consequences. This well-funded, multi-disciplinary UCONN project will once again help Connecticut lead the nation in critical academic research that has the potential to save lives and coastal communities from monstrous storms that have now become the new normal.”

“I am very pleased that this institute is coming to fruition,” said State Representative James Albis (D-East Haven), who serves as chairman of the legislature’s Shoreline Preservation Task Force.  “Many of the challenges our state faces when it comes to resiliency are rooted in the fact that homeowners, communities, and local governments don't often have the resources or tools to devise the best and more effective strategies to ensure the safety of their constituencies. This Institute will fill that gap and help to better prepare communities for changing climate and weather patterns.”

“As a shoreline legislator, I am proud to be part of the launch of Connecticut’s new Institute of Community Resiliency and Climate Adaption at UConn’s Avery Point,” said State Senator Len Fasano (R-North Haven).  “The Institute has the potential to change the paradigm of how we prepare for extreme weather.  It will lend a proactive, objective and scientific voice to a process that for too long has been far too reactionary and subjective – and, at times, unfair to property owners.”

“We all are beginning to see the challenging impacts of a changing climate here in coastal Connecticut and across New England,” said Curt Spalding, Regional Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s New England office.  “We welcome the Institute of Community Resiliency and Climate Adaptation at the UConn Avery Point campus in Groton, which will surely be a crucial resource in our collective efforts to help our towns and cities to prepare for and adapt to a changing climate.”

“One of NOAA’s main priorities is to provide coastal communities like those in Connecticut and throughout the country with the tools, data, training and technical expertise to help them become more resilient to impacts associated with climate change, sea level rise and severe coastal weather events,” said Betsy Nicholson, Northeast Lead of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Coastal Services Center.  “NOAA and the National Ocean Service leadership are excited to see this development underway in Connecticut and are looking forward to future partnering efforts.” 

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