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College of Architecture + Planning

City Planning Matters when it comes to Climate Change

City Planning Matters when it comes to Climate Change

Three years ago, Hurricane Sandy showed how vulnerable coastal communities in the U.S. are to climate-related risks such as storm surge and flooding. Researchers suggest there is a lot towns and cities can do today to make themselves less vulnerable and and more resilient to such climate-related concerns, which are only expected to get worse due to climate change.

“This is really about better local planning and planning for the future climate rather than for the past climate,” said Danya Rumore, Ph.D., Associate Director of the Environmental Dispute Resolution Program and Visiting Assistant Professor in the City and Metropolitan Planning Department at the U.

Rumore is one of the co-authors of the newly released book Managing Climate Risks in Coastal Communities. Drawing on research from the New England Climate Adaptation Project, the authors maintain that local climate adaptation efforts require collective commitments to risk management and that many communities urgently need enhanced capacity in order to effectively adapt.

“Small interventions, such as restricting new development in areas that already flood or are projected to flood can make a considerable difference,” said Rumore. “The challenge is that many communities – coastal or otherwise – aren’t even talking about this issue, not to mention the fact that they aren’t ready to work together to collectively prepare.”

Seeking to address this need, the authors introduce a framework for building local capacity to respond to and manage climate change risks. With extensive illustration and example engagement materials, the research publication is tailored for use by researchers, policy makers and practitioners alike.

“Our goal in writing this book was to share the many lessons we learned through working closely with coastal municipalities to help them understand local climate change-related risks and how they can increase their resilience to future impacts,” Rumore explains. “We also believe the kind of research on which the book is based – what we call ‘participatory action research’– is a model for other academics seeking to help communities tackle the many wicked problems they face.”

David Mathews, President of the Kettering Foundation, said of the book: “Cutting through the debates that polarize national governments on the issue of climate change, the authors offer keen insights into how local communities might engage the public to wrestle with the inevitable tradeoffs and chart a course toward resiliency.”

“The timing couldn’t be more pertinent as coastal communities around the globe increasingly experience the consequences of a changing climate,” said Anna Brown, Senior Associate Director of the Rockefeller Foundation. “This book hones in on one of the biggest barriers inhibiting towns and cities from investing in actions that build overall climate resilience: collective risk management.”

Rumore joined the U this summer after completing her Ph.D. in Environmental Policy and Planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where she was the Project Manager for the New England Climate Adaptation Project. Originally from northern Idaho, she said she looks forward to building on the lessons learned from the New England Climate Adaptation Project to help communities in Utah and the mountain west prepare for and respond to climate-related risks such as drought and wildfire.

“This isn’t just about rising sea levels and flooding in coastal New England,” Rumore said. “Climate change presents serious challenges for communities throughout the U.S. and the world – whether in the form of increased risk of hurricanes or drought and wildfire. My goal is to help communities take these risks seriously and prepare for them.”

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