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Climate Change City by City: Norwalk, Connecticut


Connecticut towns along Long Island Sound are actively working to protect their coastal zones, warding off deleterious effects of climate change, especially from rising sea levels. Of great concern is the drowning of the salt marshes that protect Connecticut’s coastal towns. Connecticut is the first coastal state to study in detail how flooding will impact each parcel of land. The 2014 study, the first of its kind by the Nature Conservancy entitled “Salt Marsh Advancement Along Connecticut’s Coast” predicts that by 2080 rising sea levels will push marsh areas inland, flooding roads, homes and businesses; overall, the study predicts the state will lose 24,000 acres of land to sea-level rise, 29.4 percent of that space is occupied by roads and buildings. Also, sections of Interstate 95 are expected to be flooded twice a day at high tide. Connecticut will be more impacted than every other state except Florida.

Norwalk SLR

Towns such as Norwalk, whose population is 85,603, are looking into coastal buffers and including resiliency programs in the town’s new 10-year conservation plan. At a recent, standing-room only public meeting in Norwalk with Norwalk Land Trust (NLT) members, Adam Whelchel, director of science at the Nature Conservancy of Connecticut in New Haven spoke about the impact of sea level rise and its impact on 24 coastal municipalities. Last November (2016) the NLT received a federal grant from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service for $20,000 to restore 5 – 8 acres of degraded salt marsh. The Western Connecticut council of Governments (WestCOG) has produced a Hazard Mitigation Plan (HMP) for the states coastal towns of Darien, Greenwich, New Canaan, Norwalk, Stamford, Weston, Westport, and Wilton informs residents about emergency preparedness including the impacts of sea level rise. The HMP is required for funding from Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

The climate change discussion is also going on in Norwalk schools, especially in science classes. Statistics show that 70% of Americans over 25, and 72 percent of Connecticut residents, agree that global warming is already impacting our lives. For young people, it climate change has been around their entire lives and is being taught in many Connecticut environmental classes. Science teacher Mark Linsky at Brien McMahon High School has been teaching AP Environmental Science at the school. Linsky told The Hour, a Connecticut news outlet, that he “had a couple of students enter the class skeptical of the idea of climate change — and man’s role in it — based simply on what they’ve seen on TV or heard at home. “Their generation finally has access to this treasure trove of scientific evidence that we’ve collected from people being curious about this for the past 30 years.” A similar course is being taught at Norwalk High School.

Connecticut schools, along with other American schools, working on convert their science curriculum to the Next Generation Science Standards, www.nextgenscience.org/, an inquiry-based program created by several states, the National Research Council, the National Science Teachers Association and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Under the standards, teachers will increase the number of lessons on climate change and environmental topics.  But climate change is minimally discussed in freshman physical science classes, says Linsky, because current curriculum doesn’t support a more in depth study. Apparently if students want to know more about climate change they have to take an AP Environmental Science class where students learn about the carbon cycle, what influences climate change and tackle ideas on solutions to global warming.

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