The Delta Cities in Times of Climate Change Conference was particularly interesting due to the wide range of diverse specialists it brought together – including planners, scientists, designers, economists, and engineers – all working at various scales. Despite this array of expertise, a strong singular thread was present throughout the conference – the notion of adaptation. The idea that communities across the globe will need to take increasing measures to protect themselves from the impacts of climate change.
In talking about adaptation, I was particularly interested in the debate of green versus gray infrastructure or using natural systems to manage water versus traditional impervious infrastructure. This debate has an even greater importance when placed within a global context. The countries across the globe who have contributed the least to greenhouse gas emissions are often the most vulnerable. Additionally, many of these vulnerable countries lack the large capital investment resources necessary to fund traditional gray infrastructure. So, out of necessity, they are implementing low-cost ready-to-implement green infrastructure strategies. For example, countries like the Philippines are replanting large swaths of mangrove forests to protect themselves from typhoons and storm surge. These types of solutions improve their resiliency, provide opportunities to educational opportunities, and contribute to economic development. How can we adapt a similar approach to more developed countries?
In countries like the United States, equivalent strategies should be implemented more readily. Smaller scale interventions like planting more vegetation at the waters edge, wetland restoration, and the installation of living breakwaters such as oyster reefs could be implemented relatively quickly – especially compared to the time intensive process of building the political will, community support, and financial capital to build large traditional infrastructure. These simpler strategies could be designed to build into larger scale, more complex green infrastructure networks as well as traditional gray infrastructure. We have moved beyond preventing the impacts of climate change. We must now seriously consider the best ways to adapt our communities and environments. We must take action, and do so quickly.
– Christopher Rice