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In the 5th century BC, Socrates taught his students under the plane trees of Athens, Greece. Athens was hot and dusty; the leafy boughs provided a cool, shady canopy. Plane trees are not native to Greece; they were imported and planted deliberately – in large part because of the shade they give. Although it may not have been recorded by Plato this way, Socrates was teaching in a community that had adapted to the climate.

Today our climate is changing and we face new risks. Increased storm intensity, higher temperatures, more frequent droughts, sea-level rise – these are among the many recurring events with the potential to damage the economic, environmental and social fabric of cities and towns. Institutions of higher education are exposed to these types of natural hazards in much the same way as their host communities. When we look at the populations involved, the campus environment can be considered one of the most vulnerable to the impacts of hazards. But like their host communities, institutions of higher education also have the opportunity to protect themselves and adapt to our changing climate.

This session will provide a broad overview of approaches available to local communities to mitigate the impacts of natural hazards and adapt to climate change, drawing parallels to the university setting as appropriate. Many of these approaches rely on existing authority or modifications to policies and programs that are already in place; others will involve more intensive action. The session will also provide information about resources for further exploration of climate change adaptation that interested universities and colleges may wish to pursue.