Calculating the Value of Nature & The Cost of Hurricane Harvey: Leveraging Eco-Adaptation Valuation in American Policy & Practice

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Seliem, Karema Mohamed

Ecosystem-based Adaptation (EbA) is a strategy that “uses biodiversity and ecosystem services…to help people adapt to the adverse effects of climate change” by taking “into account the multiple social, economic and cultural co-benefits for local communities” (SCBD, 2009). EbA valuation is a holistic process that calculates the cost, benefits, and impacts of ecosystem services in adaptation strategies. This research provides methods for valuing ecosystem services and a justification of ecosystem-based adaptation (EbA) in order to leverage effective resilience planning decisions. The goal of this research is to a) show that proactive, land-based adaptation is more cost-effective than reactive mitigation in resilience projects (i.e. EbA is more beneficial than grey infrastructure) and b) provide guidelines for understanding the EbA valuation process and recommendations for communicating EbA to stakeholders. The costly impacts of Hurricane Harvey on Texas are explored to highlight problems that can be addressed by EbA principles to potentially alleviate flooding from future storm surge. EbA valuation trends in policy, practice, and messaging are assessed to provide communication guidelines as methods for influencing resilience policy. This study culminates in visual aids and recommendations based on specific stakeholder values with the aim of generating EbA buyin from American planners, policymakers, and the public. The goal is to influence decisionmakers into utilizing the example of Texas and this study’s recommendations to potentially leverage EbA policy and mainstream EbA valuation in American resilience practice. The overall objective is to alleviate the increasing cost burden of storm surge impacts.

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