ND-GAIN’s Urban Adaptation Assessment looks to pave the way for climate action

The Notre Dame Global Adaptation Initiative (ND-GAIN) is excited to share updates regarding our ongoing urban work! While increasing extreme weather events are frightening and lives and livelihoods are at stake, we’re making progress on a city-based analysis that will prompt leaders and citizens to discuss such issues and take action. After a winter of team discussions and revamping our methodology, data collection for our Urban Adaptation Assessment (UAA) is underway.

Funded by the Kresge Foundation, the 24-month project is assessing the vulnerability to climate hazards and readiness to adapt of every U.S. city with a population over 100,000 – more than 270 in all. We’ve spent our first six months taking lessons learned from our pilot project and jumping right into to the scale-out of the UAA, which will conclude in September 2018.

Post by Jessica Hellmann, Director, Institute on the Environment, University of Minnesota & Active Collaborator, ND-GAIN

In the US, science and sustainability has had a rough year. We've seen alt-facts, skinny budgets, climate denying administrators, and now withdrawal from the Paris Agreement. As I said on Twitter yesterday and today, the most mind-boggling part of yesterday's announcement is the absence of true upsides, regardless of one's political persuasion. We live in a time of political theatre with humanity and truth in the balance.

So what are we supposed to do?

It might be cliche to say "keep soldiering on," but I do think that's what we need to do.

I was recently traveling with UMN President Eric Kaler who, in remarks to leadership at the University of Iceland, spoke of fear and mistrust of truth and expertise in the US. He talked about climate change and other grand challenges as a major duty and responsibility of our time, challenges that require new knowledge and talented leaders. And he talked about international collaboration as a key way to move the globe--not just our country--forward.

By Jacob Miller, ND-GAIN Intern

On Thursday, June 1st of 2017, President Trump pulled the United States out of the 2015 Paris Climate Accord that included 195 countries. This agreement was a global effort to battle climate change and keep the global surface temperature from rising above 1.5°C. Participation was largely voluntary. The United States’ exodus from this deal will make resolving the problem of climate change much more difficult, but not impossible. The U.S. may yet be able to positively change its impact on the environment through the determination of local leaders, the participation of private business, and the increasing role of adaptation.


A Big Problem

By Patrick M. Regan, Professor of Political Science & Associate Director of the Environmental Change Initiative for ND-GAIN

President Trump and his administration have suggested that a prudent action would be to reverse the United States’ commitment to the Paris Agreement. This is not something that the United States should take lightly, neither should the President.

The floods, droughts, storms and fires ravaging homes and affecting Americans across the country are no longer solely about addressing the reality of climate change, but also about addressing needs at a local level so policy makers can help municipalities in adapting to these changing conditions. The Paris Agreement committed countries to develop coherent adaptation plans; if the US abandons our commitment to the Agreement we also abandon our commitment to helping our own communities adapt to the changing climate.

By Natalie Ambrosio, Research Assistant, ND-GAIN Urban Adaptation Assesment

Outdoor adventures; fine wine; reading on the couch. The thread that ties these all together is the role they can play in adapting society to climate change. Adaptation goes far beyond preparing for sea level rise or other disasters and that’s what makes it exciting. Every sector has a need for creative thinking that leads to adaptation action.

The historic Cape Lookout Lighthouse in North Carolina, has stood tall through Civil War battles and inclement weather since 1859. Yet now coastal erosion and other climate-related changes threaten this tall brick landmark. Historical buildings and landscapes hold important value both for tourism revenue and cultural impact. A currently little-explored field, researching the preservation of cultural sites is an exciting opportunity to adapt to a changing climate.