Cities are the new frontline for climate action. With a majority of the world’s population, and responsible for a majority of the world’s fossil fuel consumption, mayors and city officials are best positioned to develop and implement climate solutions. However, climate change remains a partisan issue—and politics can affect how well a community does, or doesn’t’t act on climate. These are the findings of a new report by researchers out of George Washington University.
The report looked at six large cities throughout the country, and examined their risk and action plans for addressing climate change. The primary focus was to determine which social factors play the greatest role in determining how prepared cities are, and the extent to which they have committed to climate action. The findings: the most important factor affecting a city’s ability to plan is the political will of local officials.
These results suggest that action must begin with engaged constituents and active community leaders. Sabrina McCormick, one of the principal investigators of the study provides some insight to what the findings mean: “in cities where local leaders are open to feedback from constituents and open to discussions about climate change… local organizations and advocates as well as local opinion really made a difference.” In other words, climate action relies on the political will of both leaders and constituents to be effective. This requires a strong relationship between the community and its leadership, a relationship between education and science, and even between climate planning and implementation. Find out how to educate and lead in your city by checking out the resources and joining Path to positive Communities.
Portland, Ore., gets it — adapting to climate change, that is.
Local decision makers in the liberal city, with a bustling population of just over 600,000 people, reported very high levels of concern about climate change and advanced adaptation plans, according to an analysis undertaken by researchers at George Washington University (GW).
Published this month in the journal Global Environmental Change, the six-city case study looked at the levels and types of climate planning in Portland; Boston; Los Angeles; Tucson, Ariz.; Raleigh, N.C.; and Tampa, Fla. At the bottom of the list fell Tampa. Despite having a high climate risk — with thousands of people below sea level and the increased possibility of being hit by a hurricane — the city of about 350,000 has very little in the way of adaptation plans.
The researchers wanted to look deeply at social factors representing obstacles and catalysts for adaptation planning, said Sabrina McCormick, associate professor of environmental and occupational health at GW’s Milken Institute School of Public Health and a co-author of the study.