Towns & Cities
Scroll to read about the various ways communities throughout North Carolina are preparing for and adapting to the impacts of climate change unique to their location
Climate Resilient Infrastructure
There are three main aspects to climate resilience: preparation, adaptation, and recovery. Each of these three are important steps towards climate resilience and one of these cannot be successful on its own, as resiliency is multi-dimensional.
Preparation is focused on building structures that can withstand significant stress and/or damage caused by natural disasters; this is usually what people think of when talking about “climate-resilient infrastructure.” This aspect also includes communicating hazard risk to residents, which can take the form of maps, text alerts, or evacuation routes.
The second aspect is adaptation, which takes into consideration that hazard risk is ever-changing and the climate future is uncertain, as projections can shift based on new data and events.
Recovery is the third and final aspect, which is the most common aspect people probably think about when it comes to natural disasters. Effective recovery needs to be both rapid and complete, which entails making plans and reserving resources for recovery efforts preemptively (Ulm & Manav, 2021).
Climate-resilient infrastructure is an essential aspect of any community’s climate mitigation and adaptation plan. According to an OECD report, climate-resilient infrastructure has its defining characteristic in how it is “planned, designed, built and operated in a way that anticipates, prepares for, and adapts to changing climate conditions” (Mullan et al., 2018). Making infrastructure climate-resilient could include weather-proofing various pieces of critical infrastructure, monitoring road and bridge conditions for timely maintenance, or retrofitting buildings to withstand earthquakes, among a host of other initiatives.
Climate-resilient infrastructure is not intended to stop any of these disasters in their tracks, because that would be virtually impossible; however, its purpose to reduce the damage from hazardous climate events that negatively affect the people living there, the physical structures in place, and the economic wellbeing of a community. Managing risk to critical infrastructure, such as roads, bridges, and power lines, can be done by assessing the exposure and vulnerability of each piece of infrastructure, then prioritizing investments into areas where these two factors are high (Mullan et al., 2018). It is especially important to ensure that the most disadvantaged communities receive adequate support and resources, as these communities are often the most vulnerable and least equipped to deal with the negative effects of climate change.