Cities occupy a tiny fraction (2%) of the Earth’s surface, but are home to half the world’s population. Cities will face severe challenges from a changing global climate. From Toronto’s record-breaking rainfall on July 8, floods in Calgary and cities in Europe, Hurricane Sandy, and monsoons in southern Asia, the disruptive, costly, and tragic effects of climate change are making headline news. For decades, everyone from UN bodies to community groups have discussed and written about the need for and ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. There’s also been much ado about the importance of proper preparation for inevitable climate change, but these ideas are similarly under-implemented.
But it’s never too late to act, and the sweet-spot is where mitigation and adaptation converge: adaptigation.
Peter Newman, author of Resilient Cities: Responding to Peak Oil and Climate Change, refers to the “de-carbonizing of design” and to ensuring cities have sustainable economy, environment, and community structures, as well as the ability to adapt and re-build in the face of challenges The Bill Clinton Foundation has a Climate Positive Development Program that advocates very practical steps for the development of cleaner, more sustainable cities, including recognition for the participants in order to encourage their important and challenging work. Around the world, cities are starting to implement various approaches to carbon-neutral, livable, sustainable urbanity, such as Germany’s focus on local energy.
Adaptigation is also the smart-spot; cities have the opportunity to reap the multiple benefits of efficient buildings and transportation, of local goods, foods, and energy that employ people close to home, and of well-designed, robust public infrastructure and services.
As we mop up flooded basements, rescue stranded cars, and fill out insurance claims, let’s think about all the ways it could have been worse, and then do what we can to avoid making it worse. Perhaps a key question for our City and provincial leaders should be: is climate change mitigation and adaptation considered in Ontario and City budgets, policies, infrastructure, and programming? Let’s get proactive.