Cities around the world are preparing themselves for the inevitable effects of climate change. While mitigation efforts are important, adaptation and preparation for the future is imperative. Our GHG emissions today can stay in the atmosphere for decades, centuries or even millennia. Adaptation measures range from impact reports and sustainability plans to flood prevention and zoning modifications. The Clean Air Partnership published a report titled, “Cities Preparing for Climate Change.” The report separates the adaptation process into three areas: (1) Awareness and engagement, (2) Climate change impacts and assessments, and (3) Adaptation, as shown in the figure below.
Figure: The Adaptation Process (The Clean Air Partnership, 2007) Awareness strategies in all sectors are critical and should be targeted to key stakeholders, including political leaders. Recommended awareness strategies include: Workshops and conferences Well-designed factsheets and other introductory materials Maps of impact areas that highlight particular areas of concern Websites and other tools Engagement of key stakeholders, which include municipal and regional government departments, transportation authorities, utilities, and conservation authorities, is imperative in the adaptation process. Stakeholders must understand the specifics of how climate change may impact cities, identify practical adaptation strategies, and gain support for implementing those strategies. After awareness and engagement steps are taken, cities should assess the impacts climate change will have on their particular city to better inform their planning process. Assessments should include: Current conditions and stressors for the urban systems for which climate impacts were investigated Historical and current climatic trends in the region Climate change scenarios for the future Key expected impacts of climate change on a variety of sectors for the city or urban region Once a city completes the first two steps of the adaptation process, they must decide where to plan for action. Location of the city plays a large roll in this step. For example, coastal cities may choose to plan for rising sea levels and increased floods, while desert cities may choose to expand their water storage and conservation techniques. The IPCC AR4 Synthesis Report organizes recommended adaptation strategies into seven sectors: water, agriculture, infrastructure/settlement, human health, tourism, transport, and energy. The table below summarizes these recommendations.
Taking action and implementation is the final and most critical step in the adaptation process. The more cities prepare and invest now, the less vulnerable they will be in the future.