Notre Dame Global Adaptation Index (ND-GAIN), USA
It’s a new era for climate adaptation: Four out of the five most concerning global risks for the next 10 years are directly linked to the need to adapt to the changing climate (World Economic Forum, 2016). Though these are global problems often discussed at the national scale, urban areas are increasingly seen as having a critical role in the adaptation agenda. The 21st session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 21) highlighted the need to establish a global goal on adaptation of “enhancing adaptive capacity, strengthening resilience and reducing vulnerability to climate change.” In addition, the agreement calls out cities as relevant actors by acknowledging the need for non-Party stakeholders “to address and respond to climate change” (UNFCCC, 2015).
Urban areas are key sources of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and also are vulnerable to climate change. The recent IPCC Fifth Assessment Report illustrates a clear need for more research on urban strategies for climate change adaptation and mitigation. However, missing from the current literature on climate change and urban areas is a conceptual framework that integrates mitigation and adaptation perspectives and strategies. Because cities vary with respect to development histories, economic structure, urban form, institutional and financial capacities among other factors, it is critical to develop a framework that permits cross-city comparisons beyond simple single measures like population size.
The primary purpose of this paper is to propose a conceptual framework for a multi-dimensional urbanization climate change typology that considers the underlying and proximate causes of GHG emissions and climate change vulnerabilities. The paper reviews some of the basic steps required to build such a typology and associated challenges that must be overcome via a demonstration of a pilot typology with nine case study cities. The paper shows how the proposed framework can be used to evaluate and compare the conditions of GHG emissions and climate change vulnerability across cities at different phases in the urbanization process.
The issue of cities and resilience has grown increasingly more animated in urban policy and academic debates (Metzger and Robert, 2013). The term has been used to inform political rhetoric as well as a heuristic and operational tool and even as a concept within the social sciences. Progressively embedded into the wider torrential flow of academic and policy-oriented discussions on climate change and global environmental change, the term ‘resilient cities’ played, for instance, a central role in last year’s 7th World Urban Forum in Medellín, Colombia.
As the current understandings of resilience are inherited from natural and social science debates, it is one of the most used yet least contested terms. Over the last decade, the use of resilience has increased at an exponential basis in the literature on climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction (DRR). In relation to cities, the shift is so evident that the term ‘resilient cities’ has largely replaced the now old-fashioned ‘sustainable cities’. As it happened with ‘sustainability’, the notion of ‘resilience’ exerts a sort of hegemonic dominance on those scientific discourses placed at, and originating from, the cutting-edge between natural and social sciences. Resilience permeates the way social and urban problems are framed almost everywhere.