If climate models are correct, cities around the world are in for a bumpy ride over the next few decades. Storms, rising seas, heat waves, droughts, and floods are set to become the norm, pushing infrastructure to the limit.
To cope, cities need to become more resilient so they can withstand extreme weather, minimize disruptions, and recover as quickly as possible. A recent report from the Center For American Progress picks out five cities that are doing a good job so far (see below). It’s also produced this interactive map, which plots the actions of a further 45 cities around the country. They are “restoring wetlands and dunes, building sea walls and levees, and factoring climate change risks into infrastructure, building designs, and public health planning,” the report says. Most of them, however, still have a long way before their resiliency plans are fully put into action.
Houston has too much water, and too little. The report praises the city’s Rebuild Houston program, launched after massive flooding in the summer of 2012, which aims to improve drainage and water infrastructure. “This initiative will create infrastructure jobs and protect Houston properties and businesses from damages from future storms,” the report says. On the other hand, a drought in 2011 shows how the city could also run short of water. Mayor Annise Parker wants to “diversify Houston’s water supply, reduce consumer’s water bills, and ensure sudden mandatory water-conservations measure do not disrupt businesses and households in the future.”
Facing up to the possibility of extreme temperatures, L.A. is encouraging cool roofs and pavements that reflect sunlight. It’s also introducing more tree cover (because “one healthy tree provides the same cooling as 10 room-sized air conditioners for 20 hours per day”) and opening up more green spaces. The city has incentivizing water conservation through customer rebates, low-flow toilets, and new types of showers and faucets.
If the city doesn’t take action now, Miami could lose $3.5 trillion by 2070 from climate-related events, CAP says. Miami is at sea level and is very vulnerable to sea-level rise. At the same time, much of its income comes from agriculture and tourism that sits on the coast. Miami-Dade County is mapping its hazard-prone areas, allowing more sensible development decisions. “The county also has several water-conservation efforts underway, including a five-year water-use efficiency plan that will preserve Miami’s ecosystems while also saving consumers and companies money,” the report explains.
Superstorm Sandy showed New York’s vulnerability to major storms. The report praises Mayor Bloomberg’s $19.5 billion response, called PlaNYC. It will bolster neighborhoods like Coney Island and Brighton Beach from flooding and storm surges, improving drainage and allowing areas to return more quickly after storms. “The city aims to reduce storm-water runoff and sewer overflows by expanding green infrastructure and installing new and upgrading existing sewers.” PlaNYC also calls for better public transit, and for the city to work with utilities and regulators on smarter grid technologies, building efficiency, and distributed generation.
Salt Lake is projected to see a 90% drop in rainfall as a result of climate change. As a result, the city plans “to preserve an additional 10% of watershed lands and groundwater resources by 2015” and “invest in roads and trails in and around the watershed restoration projects, improving recreation and transportation opportunities for residents in the region.”