How Cadmus supported EPA on groundbreaking work assessing climate change resilience in our nation’s capital
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) Global Change Impacts and Adaptation program, the Office of Research and Development (ORD) Global Change Research Program, evaluates the vulnerability of EPA’s air, water, ecosystem, and human health protection efforts to climate change and other global change stressors at the federal to municipal levels. The program also researches and develops adaptation options to build resilience to these stressors.
Challenge: EPA called on Cadmus to assess Washington, D.C.’s (the District’s) resilience to climate change across eight sectors:
- Public health and emergency response
- Land use/land cover
- The natural environment
To develop a comprehensive and authoritative resilience assessment, EPA needed an assessment tool that incorporated both qualitative and quantitative components and was broadly usable by city managers.
Solution: Cadmus brought together experts from EPA, academia, industry, and the District’s government for a full-day workshop to assess the District’s resilience to climate change.
Assessment: We first compiled and analyzed hundreds of studies on assessing resilience, including those focused on resilience and climate adaptation activities in the District. With the information from these studies, we developed an urban resilience assessment tool consisting of a menu of indicators that measure resilience quantitatively across our eight sectors and a menu of questions that solicit qualitative information from city managers on factors contributing to resilience.
Workshop: Building on the District’s Sustainable DC plan, Cadmus coordinated with EPA and the District Department of the Environment (DDOE) to convene District government leaders for the full-day workshop. At the workshop, Cadmus solicited participants’ responses to the qualitative questions and their expert judgment on the importance of the quantitative indicators to the effort at hand. In the context of Mayor Vincent Gray’s plan to make Washington, D.C. the “healthiest, greenest, and most livable city in the United States” within 20 years, Cadmus’ work on identifying key resilience issues in the District provides a foundation for the Climate Change Adaptation Plan DDOE will develop in 2014. The resilience evaluation process that Cadmus designed and implemented comprehensively assessed climate change resilience within the context of the District’s current efforts by effectively combining expert judgment with a data-intensive approach.
Results: Cadmus’ effective engagement of District government leaders and national experts across a broad spectrum of topic areas produced a wealth of information on the District’s resilience to climate change. Our assessment approach produced a qualitative and quantitative determination of the District’s resilience based on city managers’ input across all eight sectors.
Cadmus and our project partners have provided significant support for implementing the vision put forth by Sustainable DC. Beyond strengthening the assessment tool, the results analysis will support many of Sustainable DC’s goals by identifying areas where the District can strengthen its resilience to climate change.
Our work on the District’s resilience to climate change has:
- Prioritized threats to and measures of resilience for the District
- Identified available data on the District’s resilience
- Involved developing a tool that facilitates qualitative and quantitative assessment of the resilience of transportation, drinking water infrastructure, socio-economic structures, landscapes, and other important urban sectors
- Explored the interaction between ecological and socioeconomic factors to understand tradeoffs
- Explored methods for communicating information about vulnerability to communities
Our work will also identify important community characteristics and activities that may be used to help strengthen adaptive capacity at the national scale. Because the questions and indicators were developed using broad-based input, the assessment tool is also transferable to other cities that can now model their resilience assessments on the District’s efforts. Through this work, Cadmus has helped EPA’s Global Change Impacts and Adaptation program improve its understanding of specific communities’ resilience to climate change and the traits of those communities that enhance or inhibit their adaptive capacity.