Urban areas, where the vast majority of Americans live, are engines of economic growth and contain land valued at trillions of dollars. Cities around the United States face a number of challenges to prosperity, such as social inequality, aging and deteriorating infrastructure, and stressed ecosystems. These social, infrastructure, and environmental challenges affect urban exposure and susceptibility to climate change effects.
Urban areas are already experiencing the effects of climate change. Cities differ across regions in the acute and chronic climate stressors they are exposed to and how these stressors interact with local geographic characteristics. Cities are already subject to higher surface temperatures because of the urban heat island effect, which is projected to get stronger. Recent extreme weather events reveal the vulnerability of the built environment (infrastructure such as residential and commercial buildings, transportation, communications, energy, water systems, parks, streets, and landscaping) and its importance to how people live, study, recreate, and work. Heat waves and heavy rainfalls are expected to increase in frequency and intensity. The way city residents respond to such incidents depends on their understanding of risk, their way of life, access to resources, and the communities to which they belong. Infrastructure designed for historical climate trends is vulnerable to future weather extremes and climate change. Investing in forward-looking design can help ensure that infrastructure performs acceptably under changing climate conditions.
Built Environment, Urban Systems, and Cities: Key Messages
- Quality of Life
The opportunities and resources in urban areas are critically important to the health and well-being of people who work, live, and visit there. Climate change can exacerbate existing challenges to urban quality of life, including social inequality, aging and deteriorating infrastructure, and stressed ecosystems. Many cities are engaging in creative problem solving to improve quality of life while simultaneously addressing climate change impacts.
Damages from extreme weather events demonstrate current urban infrastructure vulnerabilities. With its long service life, urban infrastructure must be able to endure a future climate that is different from the past. Forward-looking design informs investment in reliable infrastructure that can withstand ongoing and future climate risks.
- Goods & Services
Interdependent networks of infrastructure, ecosystems, and social systems provide essential urban goods and services. Damage to such networks from current weather extremes and future climate will adversely affect urban life. Coordinated local, state, and federal efforts can address these interconnected vulnerabilities.
- Response to Climate Change
Cities across the United States are leading efforts to respond to climate change. Urban adaptation and mitigation actions can affect current and projected impacts of climate change and provide near-term benefits. Challenges to implementing these plans remain. Cities can build on local knowledge and risk management approaches, integrate social equity concerns, and join multicity networks to begin to address these challenges.
The “Built Environment, Urban Systems, and Cities” publication is available as a downloadable PDF at Link to Source…