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Climate Change and U.S. Cities

Vulnerability, Impacts, and Adaptations

William Solecki

November 2015, English

William Solecki examines the challenge climate change creates for city planning complicated by the fact that barring serious intervention, some urban land may eventually be underwater. Climate change is increasing the exposure and vulnerability of cities and their inhabitants to extreme weather events and rising sea levels. Solecki asserts that climatic impacts on urban spaces are dynamic and evolving. They demand correspondingly dynamic and adaptive responses from both planners and municipal leaders. His paper summarizes the climate challenges facing cities in the United States and the ways in which climate change has already impacted the environmental foundations under many urban areas.

Solecki notes that given their particular political and governmental contexts, U.S. cities are playing the role of early responders to climate change problems, experimenting with and implementing adaptation and mitigation strategies. However, the colossal challenges presented by climate change often demand expenditures and structural changes of such scale that federal assistance with research, financing, and technical assistance is vital.

To date, policy responses have focused on the ability of cities and regions to “bounce back” after disasters. The author challenges policy makers at all levels to be collectively proactive—working together to implement broader, long-term adaptations with the goal of designing for flexible resiliency as both the risks of climate change and our understanding of them evolve.

This paper was presented at the Lincoln Institute’s annual Land Policy Conference in 2014 and is Chapter 4 of the book Land and the City.


Adaptation, Climate Mitigation, Disaster Recovery, Environment, Environmental Planning, Infrastructure, Local Government, Planning, Public Policy, Resilience, Urban, Urban Development, Urbanism, Water