Adaptation Planning and Climate Impact Assessments: Learning from NEPA's Flaws

22 Pages Posted: 13 Feb 2009

See all articles by Daniel A. Farber

Daniel A. Farber

University of California, Berkeley - School of Law


As we begin to design climate adaptation into our institutions, we should be careful to learn from past failures rather than repeating them. After almost four decades, we have had many opportunities to see NEPA's system of environmental assessment in action. We can do better in approaching climate adaptation assessment. We can learn five valuable lessons from NEPA's shortcomings: (1) Assessment of climate impacts and adaptation needs must be an integral part of the agency's decision making process, not an afterthought as is too often the case for environmental assessments. (2) Climate impact assessments should be available on-line and linked with GIS systems. (3) Formal follow-up mechanisms must be institutionalized, and information about the effectiveness of adaptation measures must be readily available on-line. (4) Planning should consider a range of potential adaptation scenarios to identify robust adaptation measures. (5) To ensure that agencies adopt a proactive approach to adaptation, mechanisms such as a prize process should be used to ensure that adaptation needs are identified, rather than having adaptation considered only when specific projects are on the agency's agenda.

Suggested Citation

Farber, Daniel A., Adaptation Planning and Climate Impact Assessments: Learning from NEPA's Flaws. UC Berkeley Public Law Research Paper No. 1341902. Available at SSRN: or

Daniel A. Farber (Contact Author)

University of California, Berkeley - School of Law ( email )

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