What Does Climate Resilience Look Like?

As the annual costs of severe weather events in the U.S. grow into the billions of dollars, companies and communities are examining how best to plan ahead to protect their assets and bolster their bottom line. Typical plans involve mitigation, adaptation, or both.

The figure above, adapted from Penney 2008, demonstrates the overlap between adaptation and mitigation. Mitigation (to climate change) is an anthropogenic intervention to reduce the sources or enhance the sinks of greenhouse gases. Adaptation (to climate change) is an adjustment in response to climate change impacts, which moderates harm or exploits beneficial opportunities. FEMA and other emergency managers might call this hardening, preparedness, or hazard mitigation. Through adaptation, communities can achieve climate resilience, the capacity to respond to a perturbation or disturbance by resisting damage and recovering quickly.

We have iconic symbols for GHG reduction: windmills, cyclists, curly light bulbs. However, when we talk about adaptation, we typically show disaster photos. Presenting problems without solutions can lead to despair. So, what does climate resilience look like?

The “What does climate resilience look like?” blog series highlights adaptation images from around the world. Some of these examples require large scale effort by the government, while others can be employed by individual homeowners based on their risk tolerance levels. We will endeavor to highlight best practices that advance multiple goals. For instance, adaptation techniques that also mitigate greenhouse gas emissions often save stakeholders money now, which reduces the payback period.

Have an example of adaptation we can highlight? Please send us the photo by twitter, Facebook, or email. Remember to include the Who What Where: Who took the photo? What is the adaptation technique? Where is the adaptation technique located?

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Green roofs
The Chicago Climate Action Plan has several great images of adaptation.

A green roof isn’t painted green.  It is a roof of a building that is partially or completely covered with vegetation and a growing medium planted over a waterproofing membrane.  In addition to beautifying the building, green roofs serve practical functions such as absorbing rainwater, providing insulation, creating a habitat for wildlife, and helping to lower urban air temperatures and mitigate the heat island effect.  The Chicago City Hall green roof, for example, greatly decreases heat; on a sunny Chicago day, the green roof is a balmy 74°F, while the black asphalt roof next door is a blistering 150°F.  Green roofs are also an excellent example of mitigation; cooler roofs help reduce air conditioning needs and consequent energy usage.

Chicago City Hall Green Roof. Source: Chicago Climate Action Plan report.
Infrared Image of Chicago City Hall Green Roof. Source: Chicago Climate Action Plan report.

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  1. Greg Jenks

    A great idea, thank you. I have some sustainable beach restoration information researched in New Zealand that should be more widely implemented.
    This method involves community-led replanting of frequently degraded indigenous dune plants that have adapted over millennia to flourish and function in the treacherous coastal zone, that band of sand between the sea and the land. This researched technique has yielded very successful results here, resulting in major accumulations of sand on our beaches, and so reversing previous trends of erosion. There are now >120km (>75 miles) of project sites, and all of these reveal the same high-level result – a return of beach accretion, usually expressed in the expanding width of new dune compared to the start point. Most dunes are now 30-40m wider than the starting point about 10-15 years ago. This is a staggering 2m/year of new sand during a period which accepted climate science would suggest the opposite should have occurred – due to the strong erosion-inducing effects of local La Nina conditions.

    We have information from globally respected climate change scientists that shows that this adaptation/mitigation method will provide the most affordable and real protection for our coastal communities until at least 2100. And this work has been cited in the 4th Assessment Report of the IPCC.

    Greg Jenks
    Coastal Restoration Specialist
    Associate of CLIMsystems Ltd

  2. Large Scale Infrastructure to Protect against Flooding and Sea Level Rise, images from UK Environment Agency « CCAP Blog

    […] This week’s entry focuses on large-scale infrastructure to protect against flooding and sea level rise. Many great examples come from current projects in the Netherlands; roughly two-thirds of its area is currently vulnerable to flooding, while the country is among the most densely populated on Earth. Note large-scale infrastructure adaptation techniques may not be appropriate for many communities; even when deployed, these techniques should be couples with other measures such as green infrastructure that reduce stormwater runoff and energy usage. […]

  3. Cooler Roofs, Pavements and Cars, courtesy of Heat Island Group, Lawrence Berkeley National Labs « CCAP Blog

    […] Cool roofing products are made of highly reflective and emissive materials that can remain approximately 50 to 60°F (28-33°C) cooler than traditional materials during peak summer weather (150 to 185°F or 66-85°C). The Cool Roof Rating Council (CRRC) maintains a third-party rating system for radiative properties of roof surfacing materials. The EPA’s Cool Roofs suggests that the cost to use some of these surfacing materials can be very cheap; for instance creating a cool roof by painting it white costs about the same as painting the same roof a traditional dark color. Due to material availability and low cost, cool roofs are becoming more common. For instance, NYC °Cool Roofs has applied a reflective surface to almost 3 million square feet of roofs to help reduce cooling costs, cut energy usage and lower greenhouse gas emissions. Note green roofs can offer multiple benefits beyond cool roofs such as water retention and flood management (per our previous blog). […]