Friday, March 23, 2018
New tool helps urban communities build resilience to climate change

New tool helps urban communities build resilience to climate change

Our nation’s city planners, and business and community leaders have been grappling with weather- and climate-related impacts for decades. Now they have a set of tools to help them plan and prepare: The Built Environment section of the U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit is designed to help address a wide range of risks facing cities and towns.

About 325 million people live in the United States today, and about eight out of ten live in or near a city or town. Extreme events that hit these urban areas — heat waves, heavy downpours, floods, and storm surges — often come with devastating and lasting impacts to  property, lives, and livelihoods. Economic inequality, environmental degradation, and deteriorating public infrastructure can make some communities more vulnerable to weather and climate extremes than others.

“We worked with experts in the field and communities that would use the tool to ensure it meets the needs of urban and suburban planners,” said Nancy Beller-Simms, Ph.D, who led the project with experts from the U.S. Forest Service and Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design.

Nature cools

Nature cools

The High Line public park created from an abandoned elevated freight line in New York City harnesses the power of nature --trees and other vegetation -to give the public a cool getaway in the face of climate warming to America’s largest city. (USDA)
The toolkit’s new Built Environment feature provides authoritative, peer-reviewed information, real-world case studies, science-based decision-support tools,
planning guides, training courses, reports, action plans, and links to regional experts — all freely available to the public.

“We wanted to be sure the tool included information on how to harness the benefits of trees, wetlands and other natural resources to strengthen the health, wellbeing, and sustainability of our cities and towns,” said Lauren Marshall, of the U.S. Forest Service’s Urban and Community Forestry Program.

“In terms of resilience planning, this tool can help shift the conversation from one of recovery to one of proactive planning,” said Jesse M. Keenan, Ph.D., of the Graduate School of Design at Harvard University.  

About the tool

NOAA, the U.S. Forest Service, and Harvard University led the development of the new tool in collaboration with a National Institute of Standards and Technology, Environmental Protection Agency, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Housing and Urban Development, Department of Homeland Security. The U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit is part of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan.

For more information, please contact Monica Allen, director of public affairs for NOAA Research, at 301-734-1123 or by email at

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