Climate Change

Posted Apr 11, 2024
Nature for a Resilient Connecticut – harnessing nature’s power to combat climate change

We stand at a critical juncture where the interconnected crises of climate change and biodiversity loss demand immediate and urgent attention. Scientific evidence unequivocally demonstrates that the changing climate wreaks havoc on habitats and ecosystems, while the erosion of biodiversity further amplifies the impacts of climate change. We cannot address one crisis without confronting the other.

Intact natural systems – our soils, forests, wetlands, watercourses and diverse ecosystems that Connecticut is so fortunate to have in abundance – offer nature’s own solutions to mitigate and adapt to climate change. Nature itself is a formidable ally in the fight against climate change. Natural systems not only sequester and store carbon, but they also provide essential ecosystem services such as nutritious food, clean water, clean air, flood control, and drought resilience. However, their efficacy relies on their richness as both a carbon pool and for species diversity.

Protecting biodiversity encompasses safeguarding a plethora of life forms, from soil microbes and pollinators to myriad plant and animal species. These organisms are the backbone of our natural systems, ensuring their resilience and our ability to adapt to a changing climate.

The science is clear – Natural Climate Solutions (NCS) can provide over one-third of the cost-effective climate mitigation needed by 2030 to stabilize warming below 2°C. Alongside aggressive reductions in fossil fuel emissions, NCS offer Connecticut a powerful arsenal of strategies for fulfilling its obligations under the Global Warming Solutions Act while simultaneously enhancing soil productivity, improving air and water quality, and safeguarding biodiversity.

We must protect nature and biodiversity in order to protect our well-being, our communities, and our economy.


Riparian Buffers

Riparian buffers protect and improve water quality, attenuate flooding, and provide a myriad of additional ecosystem services. Unfortunately, Connecticut’s current regulatory framework provides no specific protections for riparian buffers along wetlands and watercourses. Indeed, we have the least protective buffer standards of all the New England states. There must be a comprehensive review of Inland Wetlands and Watercourses and Planning and Zoning statutes and regulations to incorporate protections specifically for riparian buffers. Redundancy should be provided
to reduce risk. We must address weaknesses in our inland wetlands and watercourses protection that result in loss of wetlands and cold-water habitat.

There are several areas that need to be addressed in our IWWC statutes and within DEEP:

  • Update the required number of members of an Inland Wetlands Agency that must be trained from a minimum of one member to all members being required to obtain training. Utilize conservation districts to assist DEEP with training.
  • Expressly prohibit the merging of Inland Wetlands Commissions with Planning, Zoning, and Planning and Zoning Commissions within a municipality.
  • DEEP’s Inland Wetlands and Watercourses program is severely under-resourced, providing little support for local commissions. Dedicated staff at
    DEEP in the Inland Wetlands and Watercourses program must be increased.

Update State and Municipal Plans of Conservation and Development

Land use planning in Connecticut is implemented at the local level and starts with municipal Plans of Conservation and Development (POCD). All municipalities should be considering the threats of climate change and loss of biodiversity in their planning efforts and incorporate protection of our natural systems into the POCD. Existing state statutes should be updated to require cities and towns to consider the role of nature and natural systems in the POCD as part of resiliency planning.

Open Space & Forests

Despite the essential role that nature plays in addressing the dual environmental crises of climate change and biodiversity loss, as well as a myriad of other benefits to communities, Connecticut has not met its land conservation goal (protecting 21% of its land base by 2023), and the state’s natural and working lands are being lost at an alarming rate. For
example, of the 59%of the state that is forested, ~53% is core forest—large blocks fundamental for wildlife habitat, drinking water supply protection, and ecological resilience.

Core Forests of 500+ acres are declining rapidly—losing ~120,000 acres from 1985-2015 to fragmentation and development.

Connecticut should enact legislation that prioritizes the support and maintenance of an ecologically functional landscape that sustains biodiversity, conserves landscape connectivity, supports watershed and airshed health, promotes climate resilience, supports farms and forests, provides opportunities for recreation and appreciation of the natural world, and offers resilience while supporting sustainable development patterns.

Such legislation should authorize and incent the use of nature-based solutions as the preferred alternative, where appropriate, across all agencies and appoint an interdisciplinary scientific advisory council consisting of experts in climate science, ecology, forest science, soil science, wildlife biology, environmental economics, and other appropriate disciplines to help establish and inform the use ofnature-based solutions, including:

  • Reenacting comprehensive forest conservation policy to keep forests as forests, protect healthy, intact forests, offset planned or permitted forest losses, protect urban forests.
  • Add more parks, and evaluate and revise the state’s land conservation goal as set forth in Section 23-8 et seq. of the general statutes.
  • Revising existing or promulgating new rules and regulations, establishing systems for NBS and ecosystem service data collection.

Global Climate Solutions Act (Negative Emissions)

Connecticut should amend the Global Warming Solutions Act to incorporate “negative emissions.” According to Commissioner Katie Dykes written testimony date March 10, 2023 to the Environment
Committee on Senate Bill No. 11452 (2023): “Negative emission practices and technologies include but are not limited to reforestation and management, wetland management, soil management, and direct air capture.” These techniques not only provide climate change mitigation benefits but can also support critical ecosystem services such as air pollution reduction, biodiversity protection, and water filtration.

Often referred to as carbon capture and storage, these approaches – both bio-based and technology-based – are critical components in most IPCC pathways that keep global warming to below 1.5°C.

Incorporating negative emissions into Connecticut’s Global Warming Solutions Act while also adding a net zero emissions target for 2050 will realign Connecticut with the latest science and will support Connecticut’s ability to identify the most cost-effective path to a decarbonized economy.

Natural and working lands provide tremendous negative emissions benefits to Connecticut as our climate changes. Numerous scientific reports through various models have documented carbon and other greenhouse gas pollutants sequestered or absorbed and stored underground in soil, roots, and above ground in tree trunks and branches. Avoiding the deforestation or development of natural and working lands is the most effective means of maintaining and enhancing the “negative emission” benefits of this landscape type.

Posted Aug 09, 2023
Rivers Alliance Comments on the draft RFP from Private Developers for Zero Carbon Energy

In May, CT DEEP solicited public comments on what should be in the next request for proposals for the zero carbon energy procurement. Our comments focused on ensuring that projects on brownfields and previously disturbed lands be given weight in order to be competitive. While there are definitely some improvements and we appreciated the enhanced public outreach component in the draft, we expressed concern comments submitted on the draft RFP that the process has not changed in order to favor siting that would not be detrimental for forests, farmland soils and water quality.

Read our full comments on the Draft RFP for Zero Carbon Procurement – Comments of Rivers Alliance

Posted May 10, 2023
River Alliance submits comments on DEEP’s RFP for grid-scale clean energy procurement

Promoting and procuring carbon-free, renewable energy is essential to slowing down the impacts of climate change. However, if not sited and implemented thoughtfully, renewable energy can be harmful to resources necessary to adapt and be more resilient to the impacts of climate change that our region is already experiencing. We need to go beyond only looking at carbon offsets as the measure of balance between losing forest and reducing carbon. Loss of ecosystem services must be considered as well. When it comes to our inland water resources, large-scale solar and hydropower can be particularly damaging if not priced and sited properly.

Read our full Commments to DEEP to inform RFPs within the clean energy procurement process.

Posted Sep 23, 2020
Governor’s Council on Climate Change (CG3) Working Groups Reports, Public Forums and Comment Periods

THE GOVERNOR’S COUNCIL ON CLIMATE CHANGE WORKING GROUP (GC3) REPORTS were released for public view and comment on Tuesday, September 22nd. The comment period will last until October 21st and comments and feedback can be submitted via email to . These reports will be uploaded here:

The Working and Natural Lands Public Forum on September 29th at 4pm-6pm will include the reports from the Rivers, Forests, Wetlands, and Agriculture Sub-working Groups. To register for this virtual forum please click on the link above.

GC3 also has a series of other upcoming Public Forums, all of which require registration. If you would like to virtually attend any of them please click on the links to register.

Posted Mar 01, 2020
World Water Day March 23 at the Legislative Office Building Hartford

Please join us in bipartisan support for our precious water resources!

World Water Day March 23 9:00 – 10:30 AM at the Legislative Office Building Hartford

See the Promotion Flyer for details.

Posted Dec 17, 2018
Fossil Fuel Industry Lawsuits

From Warming Water by Laura Sanchez (

“A number of citizen groups and government agencies have filed lawsuits recently, asserting that fossil fuel producers knowingly subjected the public to the destructive impacts of their industry’s actions.”

“The latest organization to hold the oil industry accountable is The Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations.”

“…studies have emerged recently which suggest that fossil fuel companies were aware that their industries were contributing to climate change while actively promoting public relations campaigns to misinform the public and discourage the development of alternative energy sources.

The city of Baltimore filed suit against 26 companies in July for concealing the dangers of fossil fuel combustion and preventing the development of alternative energy sources. Similar suits have been filed from the states of Rhode Island and California.”

Posted Dec 01, 2018
What the National Climate Assessment Volume II says about our water and rivers

The 4th National Climate Assessment (NCA)
Volume II: Impacts, Risks, and Adaptation in the United States

What it says about our water and rivers

“The quality and quantity of water available for use by people and ecosystems across the country are being affected by climate change, increasing risks and costs to agriculture, energy production, industry, recreation, and the environment.”

NCA Volume II is huge, filled with connections between climate change and our water systems. For example, a simple search for the word “river” yielded multiple results in 25 (out of 29) chapters. Here are links to the sections of two chapters with much information for water advocates in Connecticut (links open in a new tab).

1. Executive Summary,   2. State of the Sector,   3. Regional Summary,  4. Key Message (KM) 1: Water Quantity & Quality,  5. KM 2: Water Infrastructure, 6. KM 3: Water Management,  7. Traceable Accounts (description of confidence levels),  8. References

Here’s a quote from the Regional Summary: “Much of the water infrastructure in the Northeast is nearing the end of its planned life expectancy. Disruptions to infrastructure are already occurring and will likely become more common with a changing climate.”

The NORTHEAST Region (Chapter 18) sections:

1.Executive Summary,  2. Background, 3. KM 1: Seasons Impact Rural Areas, 4. KM 2: Oceans & Coasts, 5. KM 3: Urban Interconnectedness, 6. KM 4: Threats to Human Health,  7. KM 5: Adaptation Efforts,  8. Traceable Accounts,  9. References

From the Executive Summary: “The recent dominant trend in precipitation throughout the Northeast has been towards increases in rainfall intensity, with increases in intensity exceeding those in other regions of the contiguous United States. Further increases in rainfall intensity are expected, with increases in total precipitation expected during the winter and spring but with little change in the summer.”

Posted Jan 23, 2018
106 lawmakers send letter to Trump about climate change and national security

Includes 2 Connecticut Representatives

The Trump administration denies not just climate change but weather. Despite the most costly year or record in the U.S. for extreme-weather disasters ($306 billion), the Trump administration does not regard climate change as a national security threat. The administration not only denies climate; it denies weather. It ignores the threat assessments of the military and just about every other leading security analyst. Read all about it here. Connecticut lawmakers Joe Courtney (2nd District) and Elizabeth Esty (5th District) signed the letter. Read the letter here.

Posted May 10, 2017
Banned science words

Science is disappearing from government documents. The words “climate change” have faded like the Cheshire cat from US government websites and documents. The Center for Disease Control is now under order not to use words like “science-based” and “evidence-based.” “Fetus” is gone as is “transgender,” which automatically solved the famous bathroom problem. The government is now explaining that CDC simply has been advised not to use these words in grant requests that go to Congress. Apparently, Congress just isn’t science-ready yet. If no one is listening, CDC scientists can still say those words.

Posted Jan 18, 2017
NY Times: Earth Sets Temperature Record for Third Straight Year

Surface temperatures are heading toward levels that many scientists believe will pose a threat to both the natural world and to human civilization. Marking another milestone for a changing planet, scientists reported on Wednesday that the Earth reached its highest temperature on record in 2016 – trouncing a record set only a year earlier, which beat one set in 2014. It is the first time in the modern era of global warming data that temperatures have blown past the previous record three years in a row.

Read more:

Posted Jan 15, 2017
NY Times: How 2016 Became Earth’s Hottest Year on Record

2016 was the hottest year on the historical record and the third consecutive record-breaking year, scientists say. Of the 17 hottest years ever recorded, 16 have now occurred since 2000. If human-induced climate change was not part of the equation, the amount of warming in 2016 would have less than one-in-a-million odds of occurring.

Posted Aug 31, 2016
State of the Climate 2015 Report Released

The State of the Climate is the authoritative annual summary of the global climate published as a supplement to the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. The report, compiled by NOAA’s Center for Weather and Climate at the National Centers for Environmental Information is based on contributions from scientists from around the world. It provides a detailed update on global climate indicators, notable weather events, and other data collected by environmental monitoring stations and instruments located on land, water, ice, and in space. State of the Climate in 2015 This is the 26th edition of the annual assessment now known as State of the Climate. The year 2015 saw the toppling of several symbolic mileposts: notably, it was 1 degree C warmer than preindustrial times, and the Mauna Loa observatory recorded its first annual mean carbon dioxide concentration greater than 400 ppm. Beyond these more recognizable markers, trends seen in recent decades continued.

Precipitation over the global land surface in 2015 was far below the long-term average. In fact, 2015 was the driest year on record in two prominent global products…(and) … was also among the five driest years on record in a new (experimental) version of another prominent product… ( page 21 of 56)