One year after Superstorm Sandy, cities across the U.S. are making efforts to become more climate resilient, according to a report published Tuesday by the Center For American Progress. The report highlights cities that are making strides in climate resiliency — cities that have experienced major climate-related disasters in the past and that stand to lose a lot from sea level rise and extreme weather.
This interactive map, also published by CAP, shows 50 cities across the country that have already taken steps to become more climate resilient in the face of increasing impacts. The list of cities highlighted here is not meant to be exhaustive, but it is informative.
Though the cities are clustered in the Northeast and in California, climate change seriously impacts cities in the middle of the country, as well.
What exactly are cities doing to deal with the impacts of climate change? Here are five that have done some of the hardest work:
1. New York City: New York City is extremely vulnerable to damaging floods, as made clear by Superstorm Sandy’s devastating effect on the city’s subway system last year. After Sandy, the city developed the Special Initiative for Rebuilding and Resiliency, which seeks to prepare New York for future storms like Sandy. The plan will cost $19.5 billion and will focus on projects like building 15- to 20-foot tall levees and flood walls around Staten Island and improving the city’s transportation system, so it won’t be as affected by another huge storm.
2. Miami: Miami has been called a “doomed” city — it sits right at sea level, so sea level rise and severe storms and storm surges put it particularly at risk. Losses from climate change-related events in the city are projected to total $3.5 trillion by 2070, according to the CAP report. With that in mind, Miami is working to map out sea level rise and hazard-prone areas so that developers have a reference of where not to build. The city also has several water conservation efforts underway.
3. Los Angeles: Los Angeles is getting hotter, and will only continue to do so as the climate warms. The city plans to combat this encroaching heat by promoting “cool” roofs and walking and driving roads made of reflective surfaces. The city also plans to create more parkland with tree cover, and will implement incentives for residents to install energy-efficient appliances in their homes.
4. Houston: According to a World Bank study, by 2050, Houston will have the seventh-largest percentage increase in average annual economic losses from sea-level rise in the world. Houston was pounded by a 100-year flood in July 2012, and afterwards, it launched Rebuild Houston, which aims to overhaul the city’s drainage system and street infrastructure. Houston is also threatened by lack of rain — after a 2011 drought, the city created the Water Conservation Task Force, which aims to ensure droughts don’t heavily impact Houston families and businesses in the future.
5. Salt Lake City: Drought is the major climatic factor that threatens Salt Lake City, and lack of rainfall will make the city and surrounding areas more susceptible to wildfires. The city is planning to preserve an added 10 percent of its watershed lands and groundwater resources by 2015, and will also invest in trails and roads around the watersheds, bringing more leisure opportunities and better transportation to its residents.
Of course, more needs to be done to prepare these and other cities for the effects of climate change. The report recommends action on the federal and city level, including putting power lines underground and creating incentives for consumers to install smart meters. It says the federal government should increase the money it spends on resilience efforts, instead of waiting for a disaster to strike and then spending billions on aid. And of course, governments should cut greenhouse gas emissions as quickly as possible.