As a globalized society, we think it’s fair to assume we’re passed the point of accepting climate change. Whether you believe the shift is part of Earth’s revolving patterns or that humans accelerated the changes with pollution and standardized fossil fuels is increasingly irrelevant. Regardless of cause, the symptoms of climate change are upon us. And, the proof is in the weather. From the wildfires of Colorado, New Mexico and California to the hurricanes that pelt the East coast, we’ve seen it all in the past few years. And, that’s just the United States. Record-breaking heat waves, structure-crushing tornadoes and floods of Biblical proportions are springing up everywhere.
The latest draft of the National Climate Assessment report warns that "Climate change threatens human health and well-being in many ways, including impacts from increased extreme weather events, wildfire, decreased air quality, diseases transmitted by insects, food and water.”
All that being said, it’s refreshing to see large groups of people taking action. Instead of dwelling in the spin-laded zone of the diagnosis stage, many urban leaders are now turning their eyes toward a treatment stage. In other words, how can we adapt and deal with the many issues associated with climate change?
From May 31 to June 2, the 4th annual Global Forum on Urban Resilience and Adaptation took place in Bonn, Germany to instruct a wide range of participants on how to prepare their cities for the impending effects of climate change. Attendees included everyone from governors and mayors to urban planners and civil engineers. The United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) issued an informational handbook that walks city leaders through the protocol for disaster response, relief and recovery. The focus of this preparation is on fortifying buildings and institutions thereby maintaining their place in the economy and safeguarding stability.
In President Barack Obama’s address on climate change, hemade a point about this very topic of helping American cities prepare for the effects of climate change, saying, “This plan will also protect critical sectors of our economy and prepare the United States for the impacts of climate change that we cannot avoid. States and cities across the country are already taking it upon themselves to get ready. Miami Beach is hardening its water supply against seeping saltwater…New York City is fortifying its 520 miles of coastline as an insurance policy against more frequent and costly storms.”
As Eric Justian wrote in a recent article on Environmental News Network, “One thing you can count on, mayors and city leaders are far more pragmatic than their national counterparts because they’re living in the community every day and know that something’s up. They know there are real changes that need real solutions. And they need to act now.”
This kind of plan provides three major benefits: 1) Proofing our cities against natural disasters would inject approximately $1.6 trillion dollars into the economy. 2) Implementation guarantees a certain level of expectable service and relief for our children’s generations. 3) Extreme weather creates more destruction in areas where there is more to destroy. Urban resilience and adaptation provides hope for our most majestic skylines. After all, preserving the architecture, monuments and infrastructure of our greatest metropolises is one of humanity’s few reliable ways to leaving a lasting legacy.
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