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United States: How American Cities Are Adapting To Climate Change

Published at: Jan 11, 2013
source: Think Progress

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A new report by the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives highlights twenty local government across the country that are taking the initiative to combat global warming.

The report follows up an earlier survey ICLEI did of 298 American cities, which found that 74 percent had perceived changes in the climate - including increased storm intensity, higher temperatures, and more precipitation. Almost two-thirds are pursuing adaptation planning for climate change, compared to 68 percent globally, and virtually all U.S. cities report difficulties acquiring funding for adaptation efforts. (Only Latin American cities reported similar levels of difficulty.) And over one-third of U.S. cities said the federal government does not understand the realities of climate change adaptation.

Several examples from ICLEI's new report on local adaptation efforts include:

New York City, NY shouldered 43 deaths and $19 billion in damage from Superstorm Sandy. The city's sustainability plan, PlaNYC, includes $2.4 billion in green infrastructure to capture rainwater through natural methods before it can flood. New York is requiring climate risk assessments for new developments in vulnerable areas, as is restoring 127 acres of wetlands that serve as a natural storm barrier.

Atlanta, GA has been seeing hotter seasons year-round, and an increasing urban heat island effect. In response, the city is finalizing a climate action plan that includes cool/reflective roof standards for new construction, requirements for use of "cool pavement," increasing canopy coverage by 10,000 trees by 2013, and improving building efficiency.

Chicago, IL, is experiencing more frequent extreme heat and flooding, threatening extensive damage, especially to the city's stormwater infrastructure. Chicago has responded with a landmark Climate Action Plan. They boast the greenest street in America, a pilot program they're looking to scale up to a citywide design standard. They also lead the green roof industry in installations, with the most square feet set up, and are encouraging further green infrastructure

Eugene, OR is facing more ultra-dry conditions with the attendant possibility of wildfires. One major nearby fire produced enough smoke to threaten the health of Eugene's more vulnerable residents. The city is also responding with a Community Climate and Energy Action plan, including ramping up water conservation, increasing energy efficiency, and promoting climate-adapted trees for public spaces.

Some of the remaining cities included in the report were Miami Dade County, FL; Houston, TX; Denver, CO; Salt Lake City, UT; and Washington, DC.

The rise in extreme weather events has highlighted the need to build greater resiliency into communities' infrastructure, through both local and national policy, and how to rebuild better infrastructure in the wake of destructive events.

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