Overview: The global nonprofit Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities initiative invests in climate resilience worldwide by providing select cities with financial and logistical guidance, and access to solutions, service providers and partners to help develop and implement resilience strategies.
How to Use This Resource: The website provides detailed reports on member cities via a database that allows users to select cities based on region and specific challenges. The site also maintains an active blog.
In the news: Hurricane Hermine lingered in the Northeast this week after making landfall last Friday, Sept. 2, and causing damaging storm surge, strong winds and heavy rain from Florida to the coastal southeast states. By Tuesday, the storm had taken three lives, damaged property and knocked out power for hundreds of thousands of residents. Meanwhile, Hurricane Newton drove across Mexico en route to the Southwest, before weakening on Wednesday.
Back story: Climate change may be compounding the widespread flooding that followed Hermine, according to researchers. There’s likely more of the same to come: North Atlantic hurricanes have increased in intensity, frequency and duration since the early 1980s, and climate models project an increase in the strongest hurricanes by late this century. While the science around global warming and storms is complex, experts expect a likely increase in intensity of wind and rain from future hurricanes. Estimates suggest that within 15 years, the annual cost of hurricanes and other storms will total $35 billion.
Adaptation angle: Preparation for worsening storms, in large part, means the prevention of flooding, especially from surging ocean waters that can erode beaches, damage coastal infrastructure and take lives.
Questions to ask
- For coastal communities, what are the specific risks of intensifying hurricanes? What is your area doing to protect against those impacts?
- Are large sections of your community’s population at risk, for instance, because they live in vulnerable, low-lying areas prone to flooding?
- What can residents do to better prepare for and be safe during hurricanes? Do families need disaster supply kits and emergency communication plans?
- What emergency evacuation procedures are in place for your area, and how well are they communicated to residents? How well are emergency responders prepared for rescues?
- How vulnerable is coastal property in your area, whether residential or commercial?
- What can residents or businesses do to secure buildings, such as retrofitting windows, installing power generators or building safe rooms? What are the hurricane or flood insurance considerations?
- How are local infrastructures like roads and public transit, power grid, and water treatment facilities hardened against the impacts of hurricanes and storm surge?
- What is the risk of potential damage to natural coastal areas that provide important ecosystem services, such as wetlands that serve as fish hatcheries?
- If tourism is part of your area’s local economy, how will hurricane activity affect visitor numbers? And if beach-related tourism is big, what will be the impact of ongoing beach erosion from storm surge?
- Get an introduction to storm surge and general information about U.S. hurricanes from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Access NOAA’s severe weather and storm events database via its weather and climate toolkit. Also, get news about the latest hurricane-related research from Climate Central (search the “hurricane” category on its news page).
- Check out hurricane emergency preparation recommendations from FEMA and learn about what makes for resilient communities in the wake of a hurricane.
- See how transportation disruptions from storm surge are being addressed by the U.S. Federal Highway Administration, and review estimates of worst-case coastal storm surge scenarios for water utilities from the Environmental Protection Agency.
- Calculate economic impacts of hurricanes with the Risky Business Project, which foresees tens of billions in annual average losses in the United States.
- Learn about U.S. coastal resilience and recovery projects in the wake of Hurricane Sandy from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
- Take a deep dive into details of community resilience planning for hurricanes, such as an e-book about New York’s post-Sandy strategies, Louisiana’s coastal master plan after Katrina and a report on Florida’s response to storm surge and hurricanes.
- Explore 14 cities around the world that face the threat of hurricanes using the 100 Resilient Cities site.
- Learn which countries suffer most from extreme weather events like hurricanes with the Global Climate Risk Index, produced by the Group of 7 leading nations’ New Climate for Peace Project.
Plus, see our recent news backgrounder on the flood-ravaged Southeast.
Know of other hurricane-related resources we should have in our database?
- Share your resources.
- Share your hurricane adaptation stories and story angles.
Posted by A. Adam Glenn on Sept. 9, 2016
In the news: President Barack Obama is to visit flood-ravaged Louisiana today in the wake of inundating high water that killed 13 people and left more than 100,000 seeking federal assistance. The Great Flood of 2016 is being called the worst U.S. natural disaster since Hurricane Sandy in 2012, with 4,000 people in shelters days after rains subsided and 40,000 homes damaged or destroyed.
Back story: Flooding from extreme rains is just one of many serious climate risks facing the Southeast. Predictions call for coastal flooding and erosion related to sea-level rise and hurricanes, not to mention worsening heat waves and drought. One major analysis says the Southeast and Texas are two of the hottest and most weather vulnerable areas in the country, and warns of significant climate change impacts on heat-related mortality, agriculture, energy demand and economic productivity.
Risks vary throughout the region. For instance, according to Climate Central, Florida has the largest population in the country vulnerable to inland flooding, with 1.5 million residents living in the inland FEMA floodplain. Georgia is third most at risk, after California, with 570,000 people. And both Florida and Louisiana face far greater coastal flooding threats than other coastal states.
But it's not just about floods – heat waves are a particular problem in the Southeast and Gulf Coast, while wildfires threaten Florida, North Carolina and Georgia, as well as Arkansas, Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi.
Adaptation angle: Stories for the region go beyond immediate or even long-term climate risk. They should also include reporting on preparations for climate disruption. Those preparations can be near-term, such as improved flood barriers or drainage to prevent injury and damage from floods, for emergency evacuation and temporary mass housing, or for cleanup and getting an area back on its feet after an extreme event.
But it should also mean reporting on what a community is planning in the way of more resilient infrastructure to avoid disruptions in the first place -- disruptions to transportation, energy, property, water, food and business supply chains.
Questions to ask
- What are the specific risks to your community with changing climate, and to what extent is local or state government recognizing and responding to them near-term and long term?
- What kinds of emergency response plans are in place for extreme weather in your area, like hurricanes, heavy rains or heat waves? Are there evacuation routes and do residents know about them?
- How could drought affect water supplies in your area, whether for drinking, agriculture, business or recreation? What plans are in place to respond?
- How could heat waves affect public health, businesses or infrastructure in your area? Does your community suffer from urban heat island affect? What are the plans to respond?
- How could flooding affect your area, in terms of risk to life, loss of housing, or disruption of transportation or energy supplies? How are mold and leftover debris handled? How might flooding from rains and rising seas interact? What can be done to protect the community?
- What are the possible disruptions to local infrastructure from the various risks your area is facing? How are authorities responding?
- What are home values in threatened communities? For instance, flood-affected areas in Louisiana this past week included 110,000 homes worth a combined $20.7 billion and more than 7,000 businesses.
- We offer more questions to ask on these risks and possible responses in our library of climate adaptation news backgrounders. For more, see backgrounders on drought, inland flooding, wildfires, heat waves, health and heat, adaptation in cities and public funding of adaptation.
- For a regional examination of climate risk, see the most recent U.S. National Climate Assessment. It has a detailed section on the Southeast, focusing on the risks of sea-level rise, extreme heat and decreased water availability, as well as an interactive adaptation response map with a handful of initiatives in the South and around the country.
- Another regional analysis comes from the Risky Business Project, which has an extensive special report on the Southeast United States that details a wide range of economic risks from climate change, as well as risks to manufacturing. The report also includes a state-by-state analysis of risk for 11 Southeastern states and Texas.
- For regional agricultural climate challenges, explore the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s regional climate hubs for a discussion of the Southeast region’s climate vulnerability and responses.
- More on state-by-state preparedness can be gleaned through Climate Central’s “States at Risk Report Card,” which provides an interactive map interface for users to examine each Southern state’s adaptation planning for risks like extreme heat, drought, wildfires and flooding.
- Explore cities in the Southeast that are focused on resilience using the 100 Resilient Cities site. The Rockefeller Foundation initiative includes large urban centers such as Atlanta, Miami and New Orleans, as well as smaller cities like El Paso, Texas; Louisville, Kentucky; Nashville, Tennessee; and Norfolk, Virginia.
- National parks in the Southeast are at risk as well. Reporters can navigate an interactive map with parks dotted along the region for details of specific level of risk. Another report looks at the challenges faced by U.S. national landmarks in the Southeast and beyond.
- Research state- and regional-level initiatives and data, such as North Carolina’s sea-level rise challenge, the Southeast Florida’s regional climate change compact, the Texas Coastal Communities Planning Atlas, New Orleans Index at Ten resiliency analysis, or the American Sustainable Business Council’s Businesses Acting on Rising Seas project in South Carolina.
Plus, see our recent news backgrounder on inland flooding and adaptation.
Know of other Southeastern-related adaptation resources we should have in our database?
Posted by A. Adam Glenn on August 23, 2016
In the news: A months-long drought has hit the northeastern United States, and while it’s not as dire as the West Coast’s five-year dry spell, it has stressed farms, prompted water restrictions and threatened more wildfires. It stretches from Maine to Pennsylvania and has hit Massachusetts particularly hard, as well as New Hampshire, Maine and New York.
Back story: U.S. drought has worsened in recent decades, and is affecting much of the country. As of early August drought is affecting 17.7 percent of the United States., and more than 100 million people. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, large portions of the Southwest have experienced the most persistent droughts on record in the last decade. Globally, since the 1950s, regions like southern Europe and West Africa have also experienced longer and more intense droughts.
Adaptation angle: Projections see worsening drought ahead, requiring government, businesses and individuals to adjust water consumption, and to prepare for impacts of drought on food and water supplies, human health, energy production, transportation, migration and a slew of other policy areas.
The United Nations expects more drought in the coming decades not just in southern Europe and the Mediterranean, but also in central Europe, central North America, northeast Brazil, southern Africa, Mexico and Central America. In the United States, Climate Central projects 36 states will see an increase in drought threat by 2050, with many states facing severe, widespread drought causing major economic and environmental impacts. By 2050, it says nine states — Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Texas, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Washington — are projected to face a greater summer drought threat than the most at-risk state, Texas, does today.
Questions to ask
- Is your community in a state or region that has experienced or is expected to see worsening drought? If so, what, if any, response plans are in place from policymakers?
- What state and local agencies have authority over water usage?
- Are water-use restrictions currently in place? Are they mandatory or voluntary? If mandatory, are they being enforced?
- What kind of water efficiencies might be possible in your area, such as shorter pipe networks?
- What kind of land-use policies, such as more compact communities, might improve drought resilience in your community?
- What drought-resistant lawns or landscaping techniques can residents use?
- What might be the infrastructure impact of drought in your area? Are soils shrinking, damaging pavements? Are buildings in your area experiencing drought-related foundation cracking? Is there damage to underground pipelines?
- What is your area’s primary water supply and what is the impact of drought? Are reservoir levels dropping or streams drying up? Is drinking water quality being affected?
- Could low river flows cause salt-water intrusion in your area? Or foster subsidence in soils as groundwater supplies are used up?
- What kind of public health considerations does drought bring to your community, whether with food preparation, sanitation, recreation or water quality?
- Is the balance of the water supply going to agriculture or populated areas? Should water resources be diverted from one to the other?
- For agricultural areas, what are the impacts of drought, ranging from slower plant growth to crop losses?
- Are agricultural firms or scientific organizations in your area researching drought-resistant crops?
- Is drying vegetation elevating the risk of wildfire in your area? Is drought weakening forests and making them vulnerable to infestations?
- What are the ecosystem impacts of drought in your area? Disease among wildlife? Loss of wetlands? Soil erosion or desertification?
- Review global prospects for drought and possible adaptations from the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports, or search among thousands of drought-related results from the U.N. Climate Change Newsroom.
- Get U.S. drought data from the EPA’s Climate Change Indicators in the United States, which has a section on drought, including a close-up look at temperature and drought in the Southwest. Also see the EPA’s site on drought response for the nation’s water utilities.
- Check the U.S. government’s Drought Portal weekly for a monitor showing where drought is hitting, plus get a seasonal outlook, drought impacts reporting, and a ZIP code interactive to see how drought is affecting your neighborhood. The site also has a planning and preparedness section with extensive links to drought response resources such as a “Planning and Drought” report from the American Planning Association.
- Scan drought maps and outlooks from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, as well as this NOAA-funded Drought Risk Atlas. NOAA also has a technical service that helps planners in the Eastern United States improve drought preparedness.
- Detail U.S. drought risks using the 2014 National Climate Assessment, which includes discussion of drought in its section on extreme weather.
- Read up on the economic and policy risks of U.S. drought via the Risky Business Project, which also has special reports that touch on drought in California, Texas and the Southeast United States, and the Midwest.
- Explore drought policy plans via Georgetown Climate Center’s adaptation clearinghouse. Find dozens of results that can be filtered by relevance, date and rating by searching the database for “drought.” The Center has also prepared two drought case studies for Austin, Texas, and Beijing.
- Review state-by-state preparedness plans for “drought” through the States at Risk Report Card. Montana, for example, earned an F because it faces one of the highest threats in the country and has one of the worst preparedness scores, whereas Oregon (A-) is one of the leaders in preparing for its drought risks.
- Explore cities around the world focused on drought. There are a dozen-and-a-half in the 100 Resilient Cities program (use the Selected Cities database and search under “challenges” for drought).
Dig deeper on the drought story using the dozens of related resources in the Reporter’s Guide to Climate Adaptation database.
Know of other drought-related resources we should have in our database?
- Share your resources.
- Share your drought stories and story angles.
Posted by A. Adam Glenn on August 12, 2016
In the news: It was the hottest June on record for the lower 48 U.S. states -- 3.3 degrees above normal and a hair above a 1933 Dust Bowl-era record, reported National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration last week. In the wake of Southwestern heat waves in June, unusually hot weather hit the East Coast last week, and a massive heat wave is expected next week.
Back story: Climate change means the U.S. will face average annual temperature increases of 3°F to 10°F by the end of the century, according to the latest National Climate Assessment. But climate change is not just about the worrisome rise in average temperatures -- it’s also about extremes. Climate models predict that U.S. summertime temperatures that ranked among the hottest 5 percent between 1950 and 1979 will occur at least 70 percent of the time between 2035 and 2064. Of course, heat waves are not just a U.S. problem. Europe’s 2003 heat wave caused an estimated 30,000 to 70,000 premature deaths, and last week scientists reported climate change was behind that deadly weather.
- Potentially dangerous health impacts from extreme heat include increased levels of illness and death, especially for at-risk groups like the elderly, the chronically ill, young children and the poor. These impacts could be lessened by measures such as providing greater access to cooling centers.
- Urban heat, worsened by built surfaces and scarce vegetation, can be reduced by cool roof programs or more greenery.
- In rural areas, increases in average temperatures and heat waves will mean enhancing water management to cope with drier soils and researching drought-resistant plant varieties to reverse lower yields.
- And impacts of extreme heat on natural ecosystems require a better understanding of challenges such as increased wildfire risk.
Questions to ask
- Are more heat waves coming to your community due to global warming? What’s been the average? What was experienced during any historical heat waves?
- What are the particular vulnerable populations in your community? Do you have more seniors, more outdoor workers, more people with cardiovascular disease?
- What community programs are in place to help those who can’t afford to buy or run air-conditioning units? Does your community have cooling centers and how do residents find out about them? Are there assistance programs to help residents purchase air conditioners?
- What measures are in place to reduce urban heat, such as plantings or structures to increase shade; or white roofs, rooftop gardens or green alleyways to reduce the use of asphalt and other surfaces that hold heat?
- What kind of agricultural practices, such as water management or drought-resistant crops, are growers using to address heat waves? Explore ongoing research into those practices.
- What do heat waves and drought mean for forested areas in your region? Could they mean greater likelihood of insect infestations that weaken trees and raise risk of more wildfires?
- Explore what specific cities, such as Milwaukee, are doing to prepare for extreme heat. See if your city is one of 30 in the 100 Resilient Cities program that face heat waves (use the Selected Cities database and search for heat wave under “challenge.”)
- Learn more about urban heat island strategies from the EPA and its actions database, or scan urban heat island policy plans via Georgetown Climate Center’s Adaptation Clearinghouse.
- Review state-by-state preparedness plans for extreme heat through the States at Risk Report Card.
- Explore what one particular region -- such as the Midwest -- faces with heat waves in this economic impact report.
- Learn about heat wave impacts on transportation.
- Browse heat and weather data maps from NOAA.
Know of other heat wave-related resources we should have in our database?
Posted by A. Adam Glenn on July 15, 2016
IN THE NEWS (UPDATED JUNE 30): Wildfires have been scorching California, Arizona and New Mexico for two weeks, fueled by sweltering summer heat. As of Wednesday night, at least four were dead
late Sunday night Eastern Time, at least two were dead and 200 structures burned, with one blaze, the 46,000 43,000-acre Erskin Fire north of Los Angeles, still only 60% 40% contained.
BACK STORY: Intense and early summer fire seasons may now be the “new normal,” as persistent hot, dry conditions compound years of drought to worsen seasonal wildfires. Meanwhile, tens of millions of dead trees in the region are fueling the tinderbox conditions. Another round of triple-digit temperates expected this week could aggravate the fires.
ADAPTATION ANGLE: Climate change is producing conditions “ripe for wildfires” -- rising temperatures reduce snowpack or melt it earlier, and cause more extremely hot days, all of which dries out grasslands and forest, and increases the likelihood of dramatic increases in large wildfires across the West. According to Climate Central, which has put together a new wildfire tracker, the previous 2015 wildfire season was already the worst on record in the United States, with more than 10 million acres burned. Calls for more Forest Service funding have come to help combat the problem through controlled burns, and by treating fires as natural disasters through federal emergency money, instead of its own programs to prevent fires.
QUESTIONS TO ASK:
- What should local residents do to prepare for fire, including establishing protected space around their homes or preparing for evacuation?
- What are the human health impacts of wildfires? For instance, studies have shown worsening air quality from western fires. Are local or even distant fires harming health in your community? Examples from Las Vegas and Aspen, Colo.
- How have building homes and developing on the wildland-urban interface exacerbated widlfires?
- What effect will future heat waves and drought have on wildfires?
- How are controlled burns used to clear dead trees and otherwise prevent larger, out-of-control fires? Examples are not just from the Southwest, but also from Florida (more) and the Pacific Northwest.
- What’s the status of funding Forest Service to fight the forest die-off that is helping fuel wildfires?
- How does vegetation and wildlife change after wildfires?
- What the source of beetle and caterpillar infestations that have killed off millions of trees, not just in the Southwest, but in Southern New England as well.
- For California-specific information, check Cal-Adapt for wildfire risk maps and case studies, and see the state’s Fourth Climate Change Assessment for infographics on the history of wildfires and 2085 wildfire projections.
- U.S.-wide information and data on wildfires can be found at U.S. Forest Service Climate Resource Center, where there are links to database tools and to research about likely changes and options for management; at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s site on climate change indicators, under “ecosystems;” and at the U.S. National Park Service’s climate and wildland fire resources pages
- Check state-by-state wildfire preparedness plans through the “States at Risk Report Card.”
- Check Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities program to see if your city is one of the half dozen that face wildfires. Use the “selected cities” database and search for wildfires under “challenge.”
- Read about the connection between climate change, development and wildfire in the West in the Union of Concerned Scientists 2014 “Playing with Fire” report.
- Plus, watch a brief video explainer on climate change and wildfires.
Posted by A. Adam Glenn on June 27, 2016
IN THE NEWS: The world’s mayors are forming a broad new alliance to fight climate change, and the effort is expected to be led day-to-day by billionaire climate activist and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Bloomberg’s Compact of Mayors and the European Union’s Covenant of Mayors will merge into a new Global Covenant of Mayors, representing 7,500 cities, with a signing ceremony June 22. It is expected to be up and running by early 2017.
BACKSTORY: Cities are considered key to successful climate adaptation. That’s not just because they produce the bulk of greenhouse gas emissions and house the majority of the world’s population, but also because they often find themselves at the front line of climate risks and are relatively nimble in their policy responses.
ADAPTATION ANGLE: Thousands of cities have embraced climate plans, pledging to cut carbon dioxide emissions and adopt resilience strategies. Yet many initiatives have failed, hampered by poor coordination within city government and between city, regional and national governments, communication challenges with stakeholders, lack of private sector partnerships and poor funding.
QUESTIONS TO ASK: Here are a few of the many questions to ask about your city’s climate planning:
- What are the specific risks your city faces with regard to climate, such as extreme weather, sea-level rise, or threats to infrastructure and public health? Where are the most vulnerable areas of the city? Who are the most at-risk populations?
- What programs has your city enacted, either for climate adaptation or carbon emission reductions? For instance, has it enacted plans for green infrastructure, like green roofs to reduce urban heat island effects, or has it cleared drains to reduce flooding, or built sea walls or restored wetlands to combat sea-level rise?
- Has your city put in place any disaster preparedness programs?
- How will your city fund any of its planned climate action (see our separate news backgrounder on covering public funding)?
- Can your city’s climate adaptation and mitigation planning jump-start local economic development?
- Are there any simple city-level operational changes that might help, such as through purchasing or transportation programs?
- To what extent is sprawl and development a factor in climate decision-making for your city?
- Does your community have centers of innovation to tap on climate issues? What local expertise is available to move adaptation plans forward, such as local universities, think tanks or businesses?
- What are other cities and towns in your state or region doing about climate adaptation? Could they be a model for your community?
- How well has your city worked with state, regional or federal governments to develop and enact its plans?
- Has your city signed on with the climate goals of either the Compact of Mayors or the Covenant of Mayors?
REPORTING RESOURCES: Dig deeper on the city adaptation story using the dozens of related resources in the database of the Reporter’s Guide to Climate Adaptation, where you can start your search either by your region, or specific risks and responses.
- Review our list of more than 40 city-related adaptation resources, ranging from government sources to think tanks and foundations that focus on urban climate policy.
- Scope out organizations that focus deeply on urban climate policy issues, such as The Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities initiative, the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI), the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, or the Compact of Mayors. Also visit the EU Covenant of Mayors site.
- Check out city climate adaptation plans and policy resources such as from New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Boston and Cambridge, MA, Philadelphia, Washington DC, Toronto and cities outside North America.
- Scan city-related climate news sources, such as CityLab: Climate Change and Next City.
- Review community-level adaptation case studies from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency,the Georgetown Climate Center, the Climate Adaptation Knowledge Exchange (CAKE), and the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions.
Posted by A. Adam Glenn on June 20, 2016