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As U.S. cities begin to plan to adapt to impacts from climate change, local decision makers face difficult choices about how to even get started.
A new study led by a University of Kansas urban planning researcher sheds light on tradeoffs between taking a narrow approach focused on connections between climate change adaptation and reducing risks from hazards like Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, and taking a broader approach connecting adaptation to a wide array of city functions.
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"Climate change impacts will be pervasive - forcing changes to transportation, housing, emergency management and countless other parts of our daily lives—and cities will need holistic strategies," said Ward Lyles, assistant professor of urban planning in the KU School of Public Affairs & Administration. "Our research identifies a paradox, however. Cities that begin with a narrower focus as part of planning for natural hazards appear to lay a stronger foundation for a more comprehensive approach down the line. Meanwhile, cities that start by tackling the comprehensive range of climate-related impacts initially may lack the focus needed to robustly address climate change impacts, like flooding and severe storms."
Lyles and his co-authors in their recent study published by the Journal of Environmental Planning and Management identified 51 U.S. cities that had adopted climate change adaptation plans. Climate change adaptation plans specifically address hazards and potential negative effects of climate change, such as flooding. In contrast, climate change mitigation plans seek to modify or curb contributors to climate change like the emission of greenhouse gases from vehicles or power plants.
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"Cities absolutely need to address climate change adaptation in a comprehensive manner for all city functions. It is tempting - and seems quite logical—for cities to try to eat the elephant in one bite and make all of the connections between climate change impacts right from the start,"...
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