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May 06, 2010

To plan, to adapt

   Even with aggressive action on climate change, adaptation will be critical in the years ahead -- making plans for sea level rise, storm surges, saltwater intrusion, volatile weather, and impacts on basic infrastructure and agriculture. And that is the central challenge for the planning profession, says Edward Blakely, former recovery director for New Orleans, who is leading a team of researchers looking at selected cities and metropolitan regions in the U.S. and Australia. They gathered at the Lincoln Institute late last month in preparation for a major publication due next spring.
   Places like New Orleans, Florida and the Southeast, New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco, have a lot in common with Perth, Brisbane, Melbourne, and Sydney, in preparing for what appear to be inevitable impacts. The work will entail not only sea walls, levees, and tidal barrages, but the relocation of infrastructure such as power plants at the coastline, and managing a fundamental transformation of wetlands ecosystems. Robert Yaro, president of the Regional Plan Association and a member of the team, predicted that San Franciso Bay and the Long Island Sound could turn into giant freshwater lakes. “We basically can buy ourselves 300 years,” Yaro said. “We’re at the place where Amsterdam was in 1890.”
   In the typically sinister way that the climate catalcysm plays out, ground zero will be the places that the most people live -- coastal and delta cities, where urbanization and in-migration, including massive informal settlement, is concentrated. Some innovations and strategies are detailed in this Citiwire column, highlighted by the research team and also the American Planning Association's Delta Urbanism symposium held at the National Conference in New Orleans in April.

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