Climate Change

Green Roof ChicagoIn 2001, a 20,300 square-foot green roof was installed atop Chicago's City Hall as part of the Urban Heat Island Initiative. When compared to an adjacent normal roof, City Hall's green roof was nearly 100 degrees cooler, and contributed to $5,000 in annual energy cost reduction. Photo:

“Win-Win” Solutions for Climate Adaptation & Resilience

ISC's latest Climate Leadership Academy helps city practitioners prepare for the effects of climate disruption.

Helping cities and regions develop local solutions to global climate change is an urgent and complex challenge: it requires resources, long-term thinking, action and leadership across sectors and jurisdictions.

Preparing for and adapting to climate change also means “helping communities become healthy, resilient, and prosperous,” said Robert Verchik, deputy associate director of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Policy. Verchik was the keynote speaker at ISC’s Climate Leadership Academy on Climate Adaptation & Resilience in Boston this September.

Sixteen teams of city and regional practitioners from around the U.S.—sustainability and energy managers, urban planners and economic development staff, water managers, transportation infrastructure and public works administrator, and public health and safety workers—shared their challenges and successes, and worked together to develop new ways of adapting to a changing climate in their own cities.

In an era of tight budgets and skepticism about climate science, convincing elected officials that adaptation is necessary can be a challenge. So most of the strategies featured at the academy are win-win solutions, offering communities social, economic, and environmental benefits both now and in the future.

Urban green roofs, for example, help keep cities cool and manage stormwater during extreme weather events—while reducing electricity costs and improving air quality. Other adaptation strategies, such as protecting urban ecosystem services and improving water system management, also promise multiple short- and long-term benefits.

Michael Armstrong from the Portland, OR team discusses energy management strategies with Chicago’s Joyce Coffee.

Several presentations concentrated on creative ways to sustain long-term adaptation and resilience efforts. Shifting the frame of climate adaptation from political risk to political necessity was the focus of Larry Susskind, an expert in consensus-building at Harvard and MIT. Practitioners from Chicago, New York City, Seattle, Tucson and other cities outlined their leading efforts to integrate climate adaptation into long-term city plans.

The Boston workshop completed the pilot phase of the Academy, during which ISC initiated program components to advance local climate action in four key areas: building energy retrofitting, transportation efficiency, green job creation, and climate adaptation and resilience. As we scale the program and add new elements, regional- and metropolitan-specific courses will supplement our national efforts.

To read case studies and view resource lists of promising adaptation and resilience solutions, please download the Climate Adaptation & Resilience Resource Guide, or visit our Climate Leadership Academy page to learn more about the program.