Cities don’t lag…they lead | Update on the UAA

Author: Natalie Ambrosio

ND-GAIN’s Urban Adaptation Assessment looks to pave the way for climate action

The Notre Dame Global Adaptation Initiative (ND-GAIN) is excited to share updates regarding our ongoing urban work! While increasing extreme weather events are frightening and lives and livelihoods are at stake, we’re making progress on a city-based analysis that will prompt leaders and citizens to discuss such issues and take action. After a winter of team discussions and revamping our methodology, data collection for our Urban Adaptation Assessment (UAA) is underway.

Funded by the Kresge Foundation, the 24-month project is assessing the vulnerability to climate hazards and readiness to adapt of every U.S. city with a population over 100,000 – more than 270 in all. We’ve spent our first six months taking lessons learned from our pilot project and jumping right into to the scale-out of the UAA, which will conclude in September 2018.

The team has been scouring the journals for existing research on the intersection between equity, vulnerable populations and adaptation, and writing a literature review so we can share our findings. It’s been challenging to wrap our heads around these relationships and organize our angle. But we’re learning so much along the way and enjoy the discussions our research prompts!

Engaging our advisors in regional in-person meetings was both enjoyable and insightful. We were joined by several new advisors with expertise that supports the UAA’s increased focus on equity in adaptation. We digested many ways of thinking about terms like equity and vulnerability, leaving the meetings with heads full of ideas to synthesize and develop into our own framing.

Opinions, anecdotes and enthusiasm about potential end-uses of the UAA and the merits of an interactive online tool prompted our team to clearly define our intended audience, in order to create the most informative tool for end-users. With our mission to ignite conversation around adaptation actions, we hope to appeal to community leaders, government officials, residents and the private sector. While the UAA tool won’t be developed until the end of our assessment, we’re piloting an urban adaptation ambassador program to build our national presence this summer. Our team  prepared five Notre Dame undergraduates to engage their hometown communities and local leaders, connecting them to our work and the need for climate adaptation within the urban sphere.

After finalizing our indicator lists for the cold, heat and flooding hazards, we’re adding two new hazards – drought and coastal flooding. The first steps are obtaining climate projection data and engaging external experts to discuss what makes cities vulnerable to these hazards. Meanwhile, data collection continues for cold, heat and flooding indicators. As spreadsheets fill with data on chronic diseases, education levels, populations in flood plains and much more, we look forward to the analysis that will soon come next. We’re eager to see which indicators correlate most strongly with lives and livelihoods in our regression analysis as well as dive into the sub-city level to examine spatial distribution of adaptive capacity.

We look forward to continuing to examine the relationship of social equity and adaptation and discussing the most effective way to convey the UAA’s methodology and findings to users across the country and the world. To stay up-to-date on UAA progress, visit the ND-GAIN website­ and follow us on Twitter.