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Should cities prepare for climate change?

By Jeremy Quattlebaum, staff writer

While Chicago may be known as the Windy City, its city planners and climate scientists are preparing to cope with a trend toward higher temperatures and more rain and snow.

“Cities adapt or they go away,” Aaron N. Durnbaugh, deputy commissioner of Chicago’s Department of Environment, said to the New York Times regarding the city’s initiatives to adapt to the changing climate.

White oaks, the state tree of Illinois, are no longer being planted by the city. Sweet gums and swamp oaks from the South are taking their place in city planters and public areas.

Some alleyways are being repaved with a sponge-like pavement that absorbs and stores rainwater instead of allowing the water to run off into storm drains, flooding the sewers and sometimes creating sewage floods in low-lying areas. And thermal imaging is being used to determine the city’s hottest spots, which are then targeted as areas where green roofs – building roofs covered with vegetation – are installed to absorb water and heat and cool the area around it.

“Cities are hard spaces that trap water and heat,” said Janet L. Attarian, the city Department of Transportation’s director of streetscapes. Many concrete alleyways and parking lots were built decades ago without any drainage, meaning that rainwater collects or runs off into the sewer.

Using data collected over decades of research, climatologists began making long-term forecasts that shocked many in the city government. The predictions showed that by 2070, the city of Chicago could have weather closer to that of Birmingham, Ala., which would affect what kind of vegetation grows and how much precipitation the city gets. Heat-related deaths could reach 1,200 a year.

Chicago is not alone in preparing for climate change. Bolstered by stimulus funding from the federal government, cities across the country are installing green roofs, updating drainage infrastructure, and installing bike lanes and new public transportation lines to adapt to climate change and reduce carbon emissions.

In our nation’s capital, where swamps were filled in and, over the decades, covered with concrete, there has been a long struggle with controlling storm water. Because climate projections forecast that Washington will be getting more rain, it is adding more water-retaining surfaces, including green roofs.

Abroad, Basel, Switzerland, mandated that all new flat-roofed buildings install green roofs to reduce the effects of summer temperatures. This mandate has had some positive, unforeseen consequences. Endangered beetles and spiders have found new homes in the city’s ever-increasing number of green roofs.

While the environmental benefits of more porous surfaces and green roofs seem apparent, the economic costs are often a barrier. Green roofs add to construction costs, and as building budgets get tighter, the expensive environmental features are often the first to go. When cities mandate the installation of green roofs, critics say it ultimately hurts the construction industry because fewer companies can afford to build in the cities.

What do you think?
Should cities prepare for changing weather? Do you think that it is a wise investment? How do you think your city or town is prepared for a drastic change in weather patterns? Join the discussion and let us know what you think!


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Comments
10/15/2012
Ledyard CT
Gabby
Galante/LHS
Should Cities Prepare for Climate Change? I think that cities should prepare for any type of climate change in order to prevent destruction or community health hazards. Local governments should be in charge of enforcing these preparation laws and volunteer work. With preparation, cities will have less money to spend on environmental reparations and more to spend on the actual town. With effects such as flooding, snow plowing, heat hazards, power outages, drainage, humidity etc, preparation among all these aspects will benefit the town and the people, and require less work once the 'damage' is done. I think our city prepares by hiring workers to plow snow at the beginning of fall. I think we arrange our drainage systems accordingly in different types of neighborhoods in case of flooding. And i think we provide avaliable shelters in case of natural disasters. I believe that there is more we can do in the chance of a sudden climate change, and i believe it is the towns duty to ensure saftey and healthy living environments for the people.

4/30/2012
dover, nj
w.e
dover middle school
i think they should prepare

10/19/2011
Sidney, MT
Brett Montgomery
Mr. Faulhaber/ Sidney High School
I think the cities should start preparing for climate change, especially for the winters. They need to have a better system for getting snow and ice off the roads because that is the cause for most of the vehicle wrecks around here.

10/19/2011
Sidney, MT
Brett Montgomery
Mr. Faulhaber/ Sidney High School
I think the cities should start preparing for climate change, especially for the winters. They need to have a better system for getting snow and ice off the roads because that is the cause for most of the vehicle wrecks around here.

9/14/2011
beeville/tx
jonah
acj
I think cities should prepare because what it snows out of nowhere ,rains,hails with ic ethe size of a fully loaded mini van.Then what will happen if cities don't prepare will they just let there cities be in destruction or in harms way.In any case cities should prepare.

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