Adaptation in the City

This webinar focuses on how cities and communities may best respond to the complexities of a changing climate and how to best adapt to on-the-ground issues. Community-driven climate adaptation efforts in Brooklyn, New York and Detroit, Michigan are highlighted. Speakers include Kara Reeve (National Wildlife Federation), Kimberly Hill Knott (Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice), Elizabeth Yeampierre (Uprose), and Lara Hansen (EcoAdapt).

This is the third installment of the National Adaptation Forum Webinar Series and is sponsored by EcoAdapt, the National Wildlife Federation, Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice, and Uprose, and hosted by the Climate Adaptation Knowledge Exchange (CAKE;

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Reducing Climate Risks with Natural Infrastructure

As California considers how to adapt to a changing climate, planners often focus on defensive infrastructure with a negative habitat impact: bigger levees, rock walls to protect coastlines or even giant sea gates.

But California can follow a different path. With natural or “green” infrastructure that leverages natural processes to reduce risk to human lives, property and businesses, the state can build resilience to the coming changes while restoring natural habitats instead of degrading them.

“Green” or “natural” infrastructure can include a range of strategies. Some projects focus on preserving existing natural systems, while others are highly engineered, combining green techniques with more traditional “gray” approaches.

This report evaluates nine green infrastructure case studies in California. Each improves flood or coastal protection, provides habitat and preserves or restores the natural dynamics between water and land. We review the available data on the costs and benefits of each case and, where possible, compare this information with the costs and benefits of a gray alternative at the same site.

biodiverCities: A Primer on Nature in Cities

With the majority of the world's population living in urban areas, its time to ask how they can become more livable, sustainable and resilient. biodiverCities explores why biodiversity should be the business of everyone committed to building more sustainable cities.

This Primer is intended for urban decision-makers who want to explore new approaches to this issue, and see examples of where biodiversity has been successfully integrated into municipal services and programs. We do this by targeting the message directly at urban decision makers and their role in mainstreaming this issue, presenting a range of case studies and mechanisms that currently exist for local governments, and featuring best practices that have produced positive results.

With a new spin on the benefits of nature in cities, biodiverCities is your go-to resource on urban biodiversity discourses in Canada. It provides a comprehensive overview of the ecological services that urban biodiversity provides, and why these services are the foundation of healthy communities.

Climate Change Impacts in the United States: The Third National Climate Assessment

The National Climate Assessment assesses the science of climate change and its impacts across the United States, now and throughout this century. It documents climate change related impacts and responses for various sectors and regions, with the goal of better informing public and private decision-making at all levels.

A team of more than 300 experts, guided by a 60-member National Climate Assessment and Development Advisory Committee produced the full report – the largest and most diverse team to produce a U.S. climate assessment. Stakeholders involved in the development of the assessment included decision-makers from the public and private sectors, resource and environmental managers, researchers, representatives from businesses and non-governmental organizations, and the general public. More than 70 workshops and listening sessions were held, and thousands of public and expert comments on the draft report provided additional input to the process.

The assessment draws from a large body of scientific peer-reviewed research, technical input reports, and other publicly available sources; all sources meet the standards of the Information Quality Act. The report was extensively reviewed by the public and experts, including a panel of the National Academy of Sciences, the 13 Federal agencies of the U.S. Global Change Research Program, and the Federal Committee on Environment, Natural Resources, and Sustainability.

Creating Climate Ready Communities: Adapting to the Impacts of Climate Change on the Oregon Coast


United States
44° 5' 41.82" N, 123° 55' 32.8116" W

Climate change impacts such as increased mean temperatures, increased frequency and intensity of storms, sea level rise, and changes in precipitation are predicted to impact coastal Oregon. To help decision-makers, legislators, and the public plan for and adapt to the likely impacts of climate change, the Oregon Coastal Management Program created an adaptation strategy in 2009. The overall goal of the strategy is to provide a framework for coordinated action across jurisdictions and to help local coastal governments prepare adaptation plans by 2015.

Climate Change: Energy Infrastructure Risks and Adaptation Efforts

According to the NRC and the USGCRP, changes in the earth's climate--including higher temperatures, changes in precipitation, rising sea levels, and increases in the severity and frequency of severe weather events--are under way and expected to grow more severe over time. These impacts present significant risks to the nation's energy infrastructure.

Economic losses arising from weather-related events--including floods, droughts, and storms--have been large and are increasing, according to USGCRP. Adaptation--an adjustment to natural or human systems in response to actual or expected climate change--is a risk-management strategy to help protect vulnerable sectors and communities that might be affected by climate change.

GAO was asked to examine the vulnerability of the nation's energy infrastructure to climate change impacts. This report examines: (1) what is known about potential impacts of climate change on U.S. energy infrastructure; (2) measures that can reduce climate-related risks and adapt energy infrastructure to climate change; and (3) the role of the federal government in adapting energy infrastructure and adaptation steps selected federal entities have taken. GAO reviewed climate change assessments; analyzed relevant studies and agency documents; and interviewed federal agency officials and industry stakeholders, including energy companies at four sites that have implemented adaptive measures.

What GAO Found

According to assessments by the National Research Council (NRC) and the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP), U.S. energy infrastructure is increasingly vulnerable to a range of climate change impacts--particularly infrastructure in areas prone to severe weather and water shortages. Climate changes are projected to affect infrastructure throughout all major stages of the energy supply chain, thereby increasing the risk of disruptions. For example:

  • Resource extraction and processing infrastructure, including oil and natural gas platforms, refineries, and processing plants, is often located near the coast, making it vulnerable to severe weather and sea level rise. 
  • Fuel transportation and storage infrastructure, including pipelines, barges, railways and storage tanks, is susceptible to damage from severe weather, melting permafrost, and increased precipitation.  
  • Electricity generation infrastructure, such as power plants, is vulnerable to severe weather or water shortages, which can interrupt operations.
  • Electricity transmission and distribution infrastructure, including power lines and substations, is susceptible to severe weather and may be stressed by rising demand for electricity as temperatures rise.

In addition, impacts to infrastructure may also be amplified by a number of broad, systemic factors, including water scarcity, energy system interdependencies, increased electricity demand, and the compounding effects of multiple climate impacts.

A number of measures exist to help reduce climate-related risks and adapt the nation's energy systems to weather and climate-related impacts. These options generally fall into two broad categories--hardening and resiliency. Hardening measures involve physical changes that improve the durability and stability of specific pieces of infrastructure--for example, elevating and sealing water-sensitive equipment--making it less susceptible to damage. In contrast, resiliency measures allow energy systems to continue operating after damage and allow them to recover more quickly; for example, installing back-up generators to restore electricity more quickly after severe weather events.

In general, the federal government has a limited role in directly adapting energy infrastructure to the potential impacts of climate change, but key federal entities can play important supporting roles that can influence private companies' infrastructure decisions and these federal entities are initiating steps to begin adaptation efforts within their respective missions. Energy infrastructure adaptation is primarily accomplished through planning and investment decisions made by private companies that own the infrastructure. The federal government can influence companies' decisions through providing information, regulatory oversight, technology research and development, and market incentives and disincentives. Key federal entities, such as the Department of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission have also begun to take steps to address climate change risks--through project-specific activities such as research and development and evaluating siting and licensing decisions under their jurisdiction, as well as through broader agency-wide assessments and interagency cooperation.

Ecosystem Services in the National Adaptation Programmes of Action

The extent to which ecosystem services have been considered in the National Adaptation Programmes of Action (NAPAs) and the proposed adaptation projects is assessed. By August 2010, 44 least developed countries had prepared their NAPAs in response to climate change. The NAPAs constitute a starting point for planning adaptation nationally and sub-nationally, but need to be evaluated and improved as new knowledge emerges. Ecosystem-based adaptation (EbA) is an emerging approach that recognizes that ecosystem services play an important role in reducing people's vulnerability to climate change. The importance of ecosystem services is acknowledged in more than 50% of the NAPAs. Approximately 22% of the proposed projects include ecosystem activities for social well-being or adaptation, with most of them in support of other adaptation measures (e.g. infrastructure). These projects deal mainly with regulating services (soil rehabilitation, erosion control and water regulation) and provisioning services (food, fibre and fuel wood). They also have the potential to promote integrative and cross-sectoral adaptation, as many of them consider multiple ecosystem services and beneficiary sectors. However, more technical, political and financial support is needed to foster the role of ecosystem services in adaptation.

Coastal Resilience 2.0

Coastal Resilience 2.0 is a suite of interactive tools to help decision-makers assess risk and identify nature-based solutions to reduce socio-economic vulnerability to coastal hazards. The tools allow users to interactively examine storm surge, sea level rise, natural resources, and economic assets and to develop risk reduction and restoration solutions in an easy-to-use web-based map interface.

Since their first release, the Coastal Resilience tools have been used extensively including in disaster preparedness planning in Connecticut, mangrove and reef restoration in Grenada, oyster reef restoration planning in the Gulf of Mexico, and sea-level rise planning in the Florida Keys. Coastal Resilience 2.0 features major enhancements including U.S. national and global applications and innovative “apps”. In addition to the U.S. national and global applications, the tools cover eight U.S. states (Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, New York, Connecticut, New Jersey), two specific U.S. locations (Puget Sound, WA, and Ventura County, CA), four countries in Latin America (Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Honduras), and three island nations in the Caribbean (Grenada, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, U.S Virgin Islands). Learn more at and Webinar co-sponsored by EBM Tools Network, and EcoAdapt.

Safeguarding California: A State's Updated Adaptation Plan

The California Natural Resources Agency, in coordination with other state agencies, is updating the 2009 California Climate Adaptation Strategy. The draft Safeguarding California Plan augments previously identified strategies in light of advances in climate science and risk management options. The plan is currently open for comment. Listen to this webinar to learn what California and other jurisdictions are doing as they develop adaptation plans.

This is the second installment of the National Adaptation Forum Webinar Series and is sponsored by EcoAdapt, the California Natural Resources Agency, and the Office of Governor Edmund G. Brown, and hosted by CAKE.

For more details, click here. For other NAF webinar recordings, visit


Sea Level Rise Vulnerability Study for the City of Los Angeles


United States
34° 5' 9.7044" N, 118° 12' 46.4076" W

Over the next century, sea level rise in the Los Angeles region is expected to match global projections with an increase of 0.1 - 0.6 m (5 - 24 inches) from 2000 to 2050 and 0.4 - 1.7 m (17 - 66 inches) from 2000 to 2100. Tides, wave-driven runup, and storm surge sometimes cause coastal flooding in Southern California, especially when big wave storms occur at or near peak high tides.