Society's climate resilience - Earth911 -

Society’s climate resilience – Earth911

Halting climate change is a top environmental priority, but it’s too late to focus exclusively on prevention. From heat waves to hurricanes, communities are already experiencing the extreme weather effects of our changing climate. Around the world, civic leaders are working to make their communities more resilient to climate change and increasingly common environmental disasters. Resilience planning requires government involvement, but it is most effective when communities participate in the process – and sometimes lead it.

effects of climate change

Communities around the world are suffering from the effects of climate change. More frequent and intense heatwaves have killed tens of thousands. Environmental changes have caused the prevalence of mosquito or water-borne diseases to increase by 10%, while new zoonotic diseases continue to emerge. Higher temperatures also increase smog, which combines with wildfire smoke, contributing to respiratory illnesses. In 2022, extreme weather events alone will cost the United States $155.1 billion.

urban resilience

Climate resilience refers to the ability to mitigate and adapt to climate change. The World Bank published a report outlining six principles for improving resilience to climate change:

  1. Rapid and comprehensive development of infrastructure, financial services, health care and social protection. Lack of access to these basic services indicates vulnerability to climate change.
  2. Support individual and business adaptations. A person cannot obtain housing above a flood area without assistance.
  3. Plans for sustainable land use and critical infrastructure. Land use planning can prevent desertification and reduce disaster risk. When electricity grids or transportation systems are weak, entire communities are at risk.
  4. recovery strategies. Since disasters cannot be completely avoided, effective response systems are crucial.
  5. Managing impact at the macro level. Dealing with the impacts of climate change across sectors requires strategic planning at the highest levels.
  6. Prioritization based on needs. It is tempting to focus on what is easy to achieve, but resilience depends on addressing the most relevant regional risks.

Top-down initiatives such as improved building codes, zoning and electrical grid improvements are required. But as historical efforts such as urban tree planting projects have demonstrated, environmental initiatives cannot succeed without community involvement. Flexibility includes building local food networks to reduce reliance on distribution networks, as well as strengthening these distribution systems. Indeed, given the inertia at higher levels of government, grassroots initiatives are often the most successful.

Hurricane-damaged homes in Florida
We are already witnessing the extreme weather effects of our changing climate. In 2022, extreme weather events alone will cost the United States $155.1 billion.

Community participation

A few communities are already leading the way toward urban resilience. Philadelphia’s Eastwick neighborhood is a classic case of environmental injustice. One of the city’s most flood-prone neighborhoods, Eastwick is also burdened by its proximity to an airport, two major highways, a closed oil refinery, and a landfill. But as rising sea levels lead to more flooding, the city is shifting its approach from disaster recovery to resilience, reaching out to residents through regular public meetings and an emergency alert system. They work to connect residents to flood insurance as well as flood preparedness resources and other environmental topics. On the other side of the country, the Climate Resilient Communities are empowering low-resource communities in the Bay Area to advocate for resilience and collaborate with leaders on climate change planning.

Community-led urban resilience can take many forms. Green infrastructure improvements are critical to resilience. Community groups may advocate for greener public projects, while individuals may shop for more resilient homes, or make their homes more resilient by upgrading their roofing materials. Agroecology projects can range from private vegetable gardens to urban farms and farmers’ markets. Coexistence and eco-villages require a huge commitment from a handful of individuals. But the easier aspects of the sharing economy, for example supporting sustainable transport such as communal bike garages, also build community resilience. Community solar is another grassroots initiative to tackle climate change. Across the country, community groups working on issues of land use, habitat restoration, and even poverty alleviation contribute to climate resilience.

Community Resilience Resources

The Community Resilience Planning Guide for Buildings and Infrastructure Systems is a publication of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). The guide outlines a six-step planning process for building community resilience over time. The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Environmental Resilience Tool Wizard is an online resource designed to help communities find resources to meet environmental needs. Although these two tools are designed for use by administrators, the information they provide can be very valuable to community activists. Contact your local city or county council or planning department to see if they use the guide and encourage them to do so.

Community-Driven Climate Resilience Planning is a framework document for community organizations developing, advocating and implementing climate solutions. The US Climate Resilience Toolkit provides resources to help community leaders and private businesses alike develop long-term plans that are climate sensitive.