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MIT Climate Change Report Addresses Impacts To Cities

Grayson_Lynn_COLORBy E. Lynn Grayson


Cities around the world are increasingly aware of the need to prepare for greater variability in temperature, precipitation, and natural disasters expected to take place as a result of global climate change. To gain insight into the status of adaptation planning globally, approaches cities around the world are taking, and challenges they are encountering, a survey was sent to communities that are members of International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI) Local Governments for Sustainability. A total of 468 cities (44%) completed the 40-question survey, with the majority of respondents being from the U.S. since this is where ICLEI has the largest membership.

The ICLEI survey is the basis of MIT's recent report Progress and Challenges in Urban Climate Adaptation Planning: Results of a Global Survey. Key findings include:

  1. Overall, 79% of cities worldwide report that in the past five years, they perceived changes in temperature, precipitation, sea level, or natural hazards that they attribute to climate change.
  2. Approximately 19% of the cities report that they have completed an assessment and about the same number presently are conducting one.
  3. 68% of cities worldwide report that they are pursuing adaptation planning, with Latin American and Canadian cities having the highest rates of engagement (95% and 92% respectively) and the U.S. having the lowest (59%).
  4. Four types of adaptation activities are especially common and reflect the nascent state of planning initiatives in most of the cities that participated in the survey. These activities are: (1) meeting with local government departments on adaptation; (2) searching the web or literature for information on adaptation; (3) forming a commission or task force to support adaptation planning; and (4) developing partnerships with NGOs, other cities, businesses, or community groups.
  5. Globally, the three top-ranked challenges are: (1) securing funding for adaptation; (2) communicating the need for adaptation to elected officials and local departments; and (3) gaining commitment and generating appreciation from national government for the realities of local adaptation challenges.

The MIT report is available at http://web.mit.edu/jcarmin/www/urbanadapt/Urban%20Adaptation%20Report%20FINAL.pdf.