July 11, 2019
We are already experiencing extreme weather events from climate change. In the coming years, scientists predict that we can expect more heat waves, flooding from sea-level rise, water shortages and other effects. This weather can affect roads, bridges and other city infrastructure, along with important facilities such as water treatment plants and power grids. With more extreme weather conditions ahead, cities will need to take action. Along with plans to mitigate the causes of climate change, there are some important steps cities can take to combat its effects.
During intense rain and other storms, cities need to look for ways to handle more water than they’ve been used to in order to reduce flooding. Some ways to do this could be using roadway tunnels as storm drainage systems, replacing concrete sidewalks with permeable pavements and adding green roofs. In addition, increasing and creating stormwater retention ponds, constructed wetlands and swales will be important to capture runoff. Other flood control systems such as seawalls and dykes can also be constructed, and pumps at wastewater treatment plants can be elevated.
For cities that are directly on the water, they can increase open space along the waterfront as buffers for rising water levels as well as storm surges by designating coastal hazard zones, establishing erosion setback requirements, and limiting development. Similarly in low-lying areas prone to flooding, cities can develop green zones by restoring natural meadows, wetlands and open spaces to areas and lots that are no longer being used.
Conservation and Efficiency
Energy conservation and efficiency programs will be necessary to combat extreme heat and cold. To reduce electricity loads and limit risk of blackouts, especially in the summer, cities and building owners can put smart micro-grid technologies into effect and increase the use of energy efficient and renewable technologies. Examples of these are rooftop solar power, geothermal technologies, biodiesel-fueled generators, and technologies that respond to demand such as smart meters. To reduce the impact of rising temperatures, buildings can invest in green spaces, green roofs and more trees on the streets.
Another interesting initiative cities can take is to change zoning laws to accommodate urban agriculture, and encourage the development of vertical, indoor farms. These farms can be located in cities and are able to grow food with much less energy and water than outdoor crops, and without the vast amounts of pesticides.
Power grids can be vulnerable to extreme weather events, as well as higher and lower than normal temperatures. As mentioned above, cities can put into place smart grid technologies for smart metering to help with energy and water conservation. In the future, cities and energy companies will also have to emphasize building redundancy. This is developing networks and spare capacity as well as energy storage into a city’s power system to deal with disruptions and surges in demand.
During emergencies, it’s important for the public to be well informed. With more potential for emergencies with climate change, cities will have to improve and coordinate their emergency planning and response for such things as large storms, heat waves, flooding, high winds, water shortages, among others. Alternative transportation routes and systems will also need to be developed and publicized in cases where evacuations are necessary. Not only will residents and workers need to be made aware of how to react when climate change impacts a city, but the city can use that engagement to identify problems and come up with solutions.
Developing plans and concrete steps will help cities prepare for climate change, making them better places to live and do business. Norwalk’s Citywide Plan envisions enhanced stormwater management, promoting smart growth development, energy-efficiency and greenhouse gas reduction and the preservation and restoration of open space.