Urban Climate Adaptation

This course focuses on the municipal planning process for climate change, especially adaptive strategies aimed at reducing the public health burden of extreme events. In the early 2000\’s, hundreds of municipalities prepared carbon mitigation plans, while few focused on adaption. By 2010, greater attention to sustainability planning, new funding by multilateral organizations and foundations, and increased research on the regional impacts of climate change and variability fostered the development of plans to minimize impacts on urban residents, natural systems, and built environment.The course reviews the concept of urban adaptation to environmental change in the context of vulnerability and adaptive capacity, and will examine adaptation planning through the lens of environmental justice. Research on planning and urban design approaches that minimize the public health risks of climate change and variability, particularly extreme heat events, is emphasized. We will examine empirical evidence on climate impacts and the broader political economy of decision-making around environmental health issues. How are these plans organized? Who is involved in decision-making; what scope of concerns is organized under the climate adaptation rubric? A goal of the course is to assess these emergent plans with the range of social equity goals implicit in sustainable development. What knowledge bases are employed in guiding the urban response to environmental change; what practical initiatives are implemented at the community scale, and what has been their impact?Each student will develop an individual research project; make a presentation to the class on this research; discuss readings and other students\’ research, and write a final paper that explores one possible climate adaptation plan. Student work will be evaluated based on the research paper, class presentations, discussion of the literature and other student\’s research, and the quality of overall class participation. The seminar will consist of largely of class discussions, a few lectures, and case studies of urban adaptation plans. Some prior knowledge of physical geography and the theoretical frameworks of planning is helpful.