These states are investing in the future with climate resilience design

These states are investing in the future with climate resilience design

"Not in 30 years, not in 50 years: the time to fight for clean air is NOW." 2

Ken Dewey – University of Nebraska

When you have a rapidly growing child, you don’t buy them a jacket that fits snugly. You opt for something a little larger that they’ll soon grow into. You plan ahead. This “loose-fit strategy” is what climate resilience design is all about—finding something that will protect us today and well into tomorrow.

Infrastructure is built to last for decades — sometimes even a hundred years or more — so what we decide to do today will have a large effect on how things go tomorrow, including how we adapt to or mitigate climate change in the future.” – Mariette diChristina, Dean of the College of Communication at Boston University

Unfortunately, climate changes faster than infrastructure

The record heat in the Pacific Northwest buckled roads and melted power cables and shows that they need to be designed with the changing climate in mind. Not only does our infrastructure (roads, bridges, and electrical grid – see Texas) go through normal wear and tear with age, but the higher temperatures, rising sea levels, and stronger hurricanes create an extra dose of punishment.

Good resilience design planning considers everything, including larger wildfires, worsening air quality, and population migration.

And looking into the future works! The 2011 Mississippi River flood had a much higher volume of water than the 1927 flood, yet caused far less damage because we anticipated worsening conditions.

To me, that’s what resilience is all about. We need to think about that in all of our systems, because there’s going to be a bigger Katrina, there’s going to be a bigger Sandy, there’s going to be a bigger Hurricane Maria, and they’re going to be right around the corner. — Thomas Bostick, former chief of engineers and commanding general of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

A great investment!

A photograph of a few dollar bills.


Recent research found that each dollar of federal grant assistance spent on risk mitigation returned an astonishing $6 in value.

Many cities are already planning ahead for the potential of more tumultuous climate conditions in the future.

Actions as simple as planting more trees on the streets and installing green roofs can help offset the extreme heat we are facing.

  • Phoenix has developed a heat action plan that prioritizes natural cooling solutions and community engagement to fight rising heat.
  • Southern California Edison is implementing a multi-year infrastructure resilience plan to mitigate the risk of wildfires and reduce the need for public safety power shut-offs.
  • After the devastation of Hurricane Sandy, Edgemere, New York, launched an 18-month community engagement process for building flood resilience, resulting in the Resilient Edgemere Community Plan.

The future could look even brighter!

Delivering Urban Resilience looked at the ecological and financial advantages of promoting climate resilience design in urban areas.

Co-authored by Greg Kats and Keith Glassbrook, the researchers examined three cities — El Paso, Texas, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C. — and how adding “smart surfaces” such as green roofs, solar panels, and permeable and porous pavement could reduce the ravages of climate change and save money. By integrating the aforementioned, excess heat would be lowered, water quality improved and stormwater managed more efficiently.

Using the knowledge of city partners and tech and energy experts the cost-benefit analysis was beyond promising and encouraging. Each of the three cities would have significant savings by embracing these changes.

  • El Paso would save $540 million over 40 years
  • Washington, D.C. would save $1.8 billion
  • Philadelphia would save $3.5 billion

More jobs, better living

A help wanted sign in a window

Unsplash / Tim Mossholder

Building structures that can adapt to climate change will require innovation. And that’s a good thing. That means more jobs—from installing solar panels to designing sensors that might warn you if something in the structure is going to fail.

Small businesses are leading the way, and U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm is optimistic, “This investment will boost innovation, foster the next generation of diverse clean energy leaders from underrepresented communities, and set up our small businesses for success as we transform and strengthen our energy infrastructure to fight climate change.”

This article was produced and distributed in partnership with Climate Power.

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