REPORT ON CLIMATE ADAPTATION & LIABILITY: How can green industry professionals such as landscape architects and designers be subject to legal liability because they fail to account for and adapt to climate impacts?

Note to Reader:

In a panel discussion at the ASLA 2018 Annual Meeting in Philadelphia, Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) director of environmental planning Deanna Moran and CLF attorney Elena Mihaly gave a crash course on the changing landscape of liability in the age of climate change. This followed publication of their co-authored report which determined that there are three factors that contribute to climate liability risk for design professionals.


Landscape Architects May Be Liable for Climate Impacts

In May 2017, Conservation Law Foundation (CLF), Boston Green Ribbon Commission (GRC), and Boston Society of Architects (BSA) convened two workshops bringing together over 60 experienced industry professionals from diverse professional backgrounds.

The workshops focused on the legal implications of failing to adapt to known climate risks for both government entities and private  ector professionals and the potential obstacles to considering and designing for climate risks.

Workshop participants were asked to identify and think through on-the-ground barriers to adaptation and what role law and policy plays in encouraging or discouraging adoption of climate adaptation and resilience strategies.

The focus was on how potential liability may advance or inhibit implementation of known and well-developed adaptation approaches.

To Learn More:

Then download a copy of Climate Adaptation and Liability: A Legal Primer and Workshop Summary Report.

Three Factors

As reported in The Dirt blog, a publication of the American Society of Landscape Architects, at the ASLA annual meeting Deanna Moran said there are three factors contributing to climate liability risk for design professionals, namely: public awareness; readily-available data; and lack of litigation.

First, Moran said, increased media coverage and general awareness of climate change means landscape architects are increasingly obligated to understand the climate-related risks that might apply to any given project.

“The more we talk about risks publicly,” the greater “the foreseeability of climate impacts,” increasing potential exposure to liability, Moran said.

Second, she continued, government agencies are investing in increasingly-powerful modeling tools to conduct vulnerability assessments and climate adaptation planning. Often, agencies make this information public and open-source.

“These tools are more sophisticated and accurate than they’ve ever been,” giving landscape architects access to high-quality modeling of potential impacts from climate change at a local level. With that increased access comes an increased expectation that designers and engineers will factor in potential climate impacts, The Dirt blog reported.

Finally, Moran argued the failure of previous litigation against major greenhouse gas emitters could lead to “a shift in focus on the design community as defendants” in the realm of climate change litigation.

To Learn More:

To read the complete article, download a copy of Landscape Architects May Be Liable for Climate Impacts

Also, read ASLA warns landscape architects could be liable for climate impacts on projects for a synopsis of the first article.

Flooding in Houston after Hurricane Harvey / NOAA