Even if greenhouse gas emissions could be sharply curtailed tomorrow, the atmosphere will continue to warm and temperatures and sea levels will rise over the next 50 years, scientists believe. Cities, particularly coastal settlements, will take the brunt of these impacts. Yet there is little research on how urban planning should be re-oriented to focus on adaptation.
The Lincoln Institute asked Edward Blakely, director of recovery for New Orleans, to help begin a conversation on climate change and urban form, and his preliminary analysis, in the working paper Urban Planning for Climate Change, is now available.
Droughts, floods, heat waves, wind and rain storms, and rising sea levels all pose distinct challenges for urban areas, Blakely says. Urban planning must address these challenges through the environmentally sustainable design of buildings, streets, and communities. The urban science related to climate change and its implications for human settlement is in its early stages. Nonetheless, climate change is already becoming a concern of insurance and actuarial industries as they begin to assess the risks to human settlements, construction, and infrastructure posed by atmospheric conditions. A new paradigm for urban problem-solving is needed, Blakely says.
The working paper outlines areas that need further research, and explores post-Katrina New Orleans in a case study profiling risk to infrastructure and economic systems. "New Orleans is not unique," Blakely writes. "Cities all over the world will have to learn how to cope with extreme events."
The Lincoln Institute has focused on land use, land policy, and cities as a central part of the climate change agenda. In addition to the Blakely research, the annual convening of big city planners included a review of best practices in meeting emissions reductions goals; the institute has also been investigating how the management of conservation land must adapt to ecosystems altered by changing temperatures.
Later this month, the Lincoln Institute and the Regional Plan Association is sponsoring the Northeast Climate and Competitiveness Summit in Baltimore, http://www.america2050.org/ bringing together civic, business, and government leaders from 12 Northeast states and the District of Columbia to develop a shared action agenda for economic competitiveness, quality of life, and sustainability. The gathering Feb. 29 includes talks by Pennsylvania Governor Edward Rendell and Oregon Congressman Earl Blumenauer.
The institute is also inviting journalists for a professional development forum on cities and climate change in partnership with the Nieman Foundation for Journalism and the Graduate School of Design. Finally, Nicky Gavron, currently deputy mayor of London and one of the key authors of that city's climate action plan, is scheduled to deliver a special Lincoln Lecture on June 10 at Lincoln House. Details will be forthcoming.