Globally, cities are facing increasing risks brought by climate change including more frequent and severe floods, droughts and heat waves, as well as sea level rise. As such, cities will need to become resilient to a variety of climatic risks, where climate resilience is the capacity of a system to absorb stresses imposed by climate variability and climate change.
In a climate resilient city, both the population and infrastructure become more robust over time, enabling them to withstand the increasing impacts of climate change.
One city that is leading the way is New York City.
A resilient NYC
New York City has recently released its preliminary Climate Resiliency Design Guidelines to provide architects, engineers, planners and other professionals with step-by-step instructions on how to incorporate projected impacts of climate change into the planning, engineering, construction and renovation of City-owned facilities. Some of the impacts of climate change will be:
- Rising temperatures: The mean annual temperature is projected to increase between 4.1 and 6.6 °F by the 2050s and between 5.3 and 10.3 °F by the 2080s
- More frequent heat waves: The frequency of heat waves is projected to triple by the 2050s to 5-7 heat waves per year
- Increased precipitation: Mean annual precipitation is projected to increase 4-13% by the 2050s and 5-19% by the 2080s
- Rising sea levels: The sea level is expected to continue to rise by 11-21 inches by 2050 and by 18-39 inches by the 2080s
Climate resilient City-owned facilities
To ensure City-owned facilities are resilient to a wide range of possible climatic extremes, the Guidelines:
- Provide guidance to address major climate risks and planning for continued changes in climate across the entire useful life of facilities built today
- Ensure that both critical and non-critical city facilities are built to be resilient
- Ensure cost-effective investments are made by evaluating the future climate projects against the service life of a planned new asset
- Utilize projected climate data at the local level
- Provide guidance on how to mitigate urban heat island effects
- Address urban flooding during extreme precipitation events
- Recommend adaptation pathways as a way to manage uncertainty
- Recommend that large-scale projects undertake a full climate risk assessment to develop a resilient design specific to the facility
To build resilience to climate change, cities need to incorporate climatic risks into new capital projects from day 1.
*Robert C. Brears is the author of Urban Water Security (Wiley), and of the forthcoming titles Blue and Green Cities (Palgrave Macmillan) and The Green Economy and the Water-Energy-Food Nexus (Palgrave Macmillan). He is Founder of Mitidaption, which consults on climate change risks to business, governance and society.