Climate Adaptation


I want to punch climate change in the face. A blog about the interactions between the built environment, people, and nature. - FAQs - Follow - Face - Ask - Donations - Climate Book Store

Connecting the Dots: Adaptation + Mitigation Synergies
Which land should governments protect from floods: urban and coastal cities, or agricultural farmlands?

Interesting argument against governments protecting urban zones over food-production zones. Coastal communities and inland cities are protected from floods and erosion by highly complex infrastructure mechanisms, such as dams, levees, and piping. Agricultural lands do not enjoy the same levels of infrastructural capacity. But, should they? Should farms have an equal amount of protection as cities do?

Creating and Expanding Funding Streams for Adaptation Planning and Implementation

Cities and communities are confronted with planning and implementing climate adaptation with very few resources available to help pay for the help they need. Adaptation funding is competing against already limited funding for schools, police, and libraries from scarce local resources. So, while adaptation is a responsible long-term investment for communities, it is usually very difficult to secure adequate funding for planning and implementation. During this webinar we will explore ways to use existing mandates for implementing adaptation, give an example of how adaptation is moving forward in the City of Cleveland, and provide a forum for discussion on challenges and creative ways to move adaptation forward.

This webinar is the first of the National Adaptation Webinar Series and is sponsored by EcoAdapt and Georgetown Law Center and hosted by
This webinar will focus on identifying existing adaptation funding streams and using existing resources and mandates to implement adaptation. 
Webinar will take place from 1:00-2:00 PM EST 

1:00-1:15Lara Hansen. Ph.D.Chief Scientist and Executive Director, EcoAdapt, will discuss "The State of Adaptation in the United States". Download the presentation.
1:15-1:30Sara P. HoverterSenior Fellow (health & climate) and Adjunct Professor, Georgetown Law Center, will discuss federal opportunities and challenges to supporting state and local adaptation. Download the presentation.

1:30-1:45 Jenita McGowan, Chief of Sustainability, City of Cleveland will discuss the Cleveland Climate Action Plan and the challenges and plans for implementation. Download the presentation.

1:45-2:00 Open discussion and questions for panel members.
Excellent adaptation webinar from EcoAdapt and CAKEX.

Hi! Denser city living now seems to be the best solution for the billions of people added to the earth. But many prefer to live in big houses in the suburbs (than in tiny apartments), and would rather drive long distances to their workplace (than experience overcrowding on public transports). What do you propose would be the best way in encouraging both denser city living whilst having good neighbourhood satisfaction? Thanks

A question by lin-deng

Hi hello-linny!

This is incredibly complicated and I’m not really going to answer your question directly. There are a variety of design and urban planning techniques to help cities be more dense while being more livable. Form Based Code, Smart Growth, sustainable planning, etc., are very common, easily replicable, and very flexible solutions to this.

The problem with these solutions are that people are not staying in one place for very long. This trend of people moving to cities will slow a bit, and cities can adapt and absorb the influxes.

The real question, to my mind, is how to make them stay? These new people rarely participate in local government. They rarely stay or invest in a place, typically using the city as a catalyst to elevate their socioeconomic standing.

This is fine, but cities will suffer in the next demographic swing. As it stands, most cities are planning for the next 10-20 years using a stable or growing tax base. This is just not true. Tax receipts will not continue to grow, they’ll be more volatile, creating deeper dips and higher spikes in local economies.

Tax receipts, which are used for things like water, health, education, environment, security, business development, and transportation, will (probably) implode.

Detroit (or the entire country of Japan) is a good example of this. Both based their planning goals on false demographics.

So, while most cities are scrambling to provide design solutions, they really should be pivoting towards investing in the people. How? Diversity in education systems. Having a strong public school system is great, creating a system that includes charter, specialty, religious schooling options is even better. Assisting people with their health care options should include increased focus on mental health. Study after study has shown that when people improve their mental health, their physical health and relationships with communities greatly improves. Investment in parks, environmental quality, and conservation areas consistently (in nearly every country) show economic and health resiliency.

Here’s a sweet little report discussing some of these solutions: Demographic change in European cities: City practices for active inclusion.

There are tons of other things, like creating a Happiness Index, which measures how happy people are in the current situations. If there are dips and swings to this index, government can nudge the bar in one direction or the other.

Thanks for the interesting question!


Kivalina: The Alaskan village set to disappear under water in a decade

Almost no one in America has heard of the Alaskan village of Kivalina. It clings to a narrow spit of sand on the edge of the Bering Sea, far too small to feature on maps of Alaska, never mind the United States.

Which is perhaps just as well, because within a decade Kivalina is likely to be under water. Gone, forever. Remembered - if at all - as the birthplace of America’s first climate change refugees.

Four hundred indigenous Inuit people currently live in Kivalina’s collection of single-storey cabins. Their livelihoods depend on hunting and fishing.

The sea has sustained them for countless generations but in the last two decades the dramatic retreat of the Arctic ice has left them desperately vulnerable to coastal erosion. No longer does thick ice protect their shoreline from the destructive power of autumn and winter storms. Kivalina’s spit of sand has been dramatically narrowed.

I have a few posts on Kivalina. The villagers tried - and lost - several times to sue oil companies and the federal government. 

"A haven for human rights can be built for everyone, block by block." - New Lego model of United Nations Headquarters unveiled. Note, the UN building was designed by 11 of the world’s most famous architects, including leads Le Corbusier and Oscar Niemeyer, and Wallace Harrison, Max Abramovitz, Sir Robertson, etc. Illustrations of the building, here.

Hello - I am in my senior year of college as an Interior Design major (with a minor in Sustainability in the Built Environment) but only very recently did I find my passion for Environmental Studies. Unfortunately, it appears every graduate school I look at requires heavy undergrad studies in Chemistry and Biology as well as research experience, which, as I did not realize this interest until late in the game (in terms of undergrad) I just don't have. I feel like I don't have any options. Help?

A question by Anonymous

Hey anon,

You’re fine. In fact, you may be more interesting than most applicants. Embrace your undergrad and shape yourself as a visionary. I’m sure there are heroes and heroines in your field, so mimic their paths.

Most importantly, have a face-to-face chat with either the grad school’s dean. Tell them you’re goals, your fears, and what you’d want to accomplish. Also identify a professor you’d want to work with at that grad school and have several chats with them. These people are (usually) on the application review boards.

I assure you, ‘requirements’ are myths.

You’ll do great!



A disaster resilient planet means everyone must be part of the solution.

If you’re living with a disability, take this survey from the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) and share your thoughts.

Interesting conversation at the link. How do city planners, architects, engineers, researchers, etc., think about people living with disabilities?

This one hits close to home. A few years ago, my grandfather was confined to a wheel chair and moved in to live with my mother for care. Her house was about 80 years old and was quite small. Doorways and halls were narrow. One day, as an experiment, I decided to sit in his wheel chair and get a drink of water. I was curious about how difficult it must have been. I was also curious about if I could fit through the doorways.

The entire experiment was incredibly frustrating. Getting through the narrow doorways wasn’t the biggest issue, it was the sharp turns just after some of them. To get to the kitchen, I had to do an immediate 90 turn. It was craziness, sort of like the ultimate parallel parking situation, wheeling back and forth, one hand pushing a wheel, the other pulling. Inch by inch. But that wasn’t the worst part, it was trying to get a glass from the cupboard. I couldn’t reach up past the counter, which at 36 inches high, impeded my reach. There simply was no way for me to reach a glass. I could reach the bottom corner of the cupboard to open it. But I couldn’t reach in to get a glass, nor could I reach the nobs on the back of the sink without getting out of the chair.

Right then I realized that western style homes were only for the able bodied, and certainly not for the disabled. Further, there was no affordable way, to my mind, to retrofit or ‘adapt’, homes with ease to accommodate people with failing faculties. Old people are physically weakened, and across a counter and up to a cupboard is, seriously, a dangerous task. It’s no wonder elderly are always falling - it’s a design issue.

Right after that experience I donated a wheelchair to the Environmental Design and Urban Planning departments at the University of Massachusetts, where I earned two of my degrees.

I asked one of the professors to be in charge of the chair, and challenge her students (with supervision) to perform one task: get a cup of coffee and bring it back to class. The results, I’m sure, are perpetually hilarious. But these students will, it is my hope, think about design in the built environment with everyone in mind.

In the Netherlands, urban planners and engineers think about all users. They think about how children, parents, the able bodied, and the elderly can use and grow with their cities. They also think about the disabled (great video, I cannot watch this without, err, the room getting all dusty).

So, there is precedent to include the disabled into planning. If you’re a disaster manager of any sort, try to think about what it would be like confined to a wheelchair - how would you find elderly people in time to evacuate them? How can the leave the house? Who could they call? Who would be around to respond? Do the side walks and streets provide a reliable exit?

To the surprise of absolutely no one, new research paper shows blacks, Asians, and Latinos are all significantly more likely to live in high-risk heat-island conditions than white people

Published free by the National Institutes for Health (NIH)

Ultimately we sought to elucidate how social inequalities shape disparities in heat risk–related land cover (HRRLC) characteristics.

Toward this goal, we used racial residential segregation as a proxy for the degree to which a metropolitan area is characterized by historical and contemporary racial inequality and discrimination. Political and socioeconomic forces have led to systemic racial and ethnic segregation, with important implications for community health.

Therefore, segregation is crucial to understanding social drivers of environmental health disparities and, more directly, the potentially disproportionate health burdens of climate change on communities of color.

Rolling Stone must read of the day.

Goodbye, Miami

By century’s end, rising sea levels will turn the nation’s urban fantasyland into an American Atlantis. But long before the city is completely underwater, chaos will begin

In that past decade, tourist visits had plummeted by 40 percent, even after the Florida legislature agreed to allow casino gambling in a desperate attempt to raise revenue for storm protection. The city of Homestead, in southern Miami-Dade County, which had been flattened by Hurricane Andrew in 1992, had to be completely abandoned. Thousands of tract homes were bulldozed because they were a public health hazard. In the parts of the county that were still inhabitable, only the wealthiest could afford to insure their homes. Mortgages were nearly impossible to get, mostly because banks didn’t believe the homes would be there in 30 years. At high tide, many roads were impassable, even for the most modern semiaquatic vehicles.

Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math

But Hurricane Milo was unexpectedly devastating. Because sea-level­ rise had already pushed the water table so high, it took weeks for the storm waters to recede. Salt water corroded underground wiring, leaving parts of the city dark for months. Drinking-water­ wells were ruined. Interstate 95 was clogged with cars and trucks stuffed with animals and personal belongings, as hundreds of thousands of people fled north to Orlando, the highest ground in central Florida. Developers drew up plans for new buildings on stilts, but few were built. A new flexible carbon-fiber­ bridge was proposed to link Miami Beach with the mainland, but the bankrupt city couldn’t secure financing and the project fell apart. The skyscrapers that had gone up during the Obama years were gradually abandoned and used as staging grounds for drug runners and exotic-animal traffickers. A crocodile nested in the ruins of the Pérez Art Museum.

Read more: Why the City of Miami is doomed to drown

Beyond NYC: Other places adapting to climate

A bit generic, but an interesting list (Cuba is included, for example).