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Reducing Climate Risks with Natural Infrastructure

Louis Blumberg, Jim Downing, and Eric Hallstein
Created: 5/14/2014 - Updated: 2/11/2019

Abstract

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.

Published On

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Keywords

Sector Addressed: 
Conservation / Restoration
Transportation / Infrastructure
Target Climate Changes and Impacts: 
Air temperature
Culture / communities
Erosion
Flooding
Flow patterns
Habitat extent
Infrastructure damage
Precipitation
Public health risks
Public safety threats
Sea level rise
Storms or extreme weather events
Type of Adaptation Action/Strategy: 
Natural Resource Management / Conservation
Incorporate climate-smart guidelines into restoration
Incorporate future conditions into natural resources planning and policies
Create new refugia / Increase size and amount of protected areas
Design protected areas or lands to allow inland, altitudinal, or latitudinal movement
Infrastructure, Planning, and Development
Infrastructure retrofitting and improvements
Managed retreat of built infrastructure, relocation of people/communities
Make infrastructure resistant or resilient to climate change
Create or modify shoreline management measures