Cities around the world, aided by long-sighted business leaders, are working to "future proof" themselves against disaster. Recently, the 4th annual Global Forum on Urban Resilience and Adaptation took place in Bonn, Germany where leaders from every corner of the earth came to learn how to prepare for the effects of climate change.
The United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) issued an informational handbook to help mayors through the process of making a more resilient city, better able to respond to and recover from disasters.
Globally, waves of historic and extreme weather events have been hammering urban centers year after year. We're certainly seeing the same in the U.S. with an almost annual assault of severe weather events on our cities: Hurricanes, record-breaking heat waves and wildfires, flooding, monstrous and tragic city-flattening tornadoes, and of course, the severe and historic "Derecho" straight line winds of 2012.
The latest draft of the National Climate Assessment report warns that "Climate change threatens human health and well-being in many ways, including impacts from increased extreme weather events, wildfire, decreased air quality, diseases transmitted by insects, food and water..."
While a debate on climate change rages in some circles, actual cities aren't waiting around before acting on a very real threat knocking down their buildings, destabilizing their economy and their way of life. One thing you can count on, mayors and city leaders are far more pragmatic than their national counterparts because they're living in the community every day and know that something's up. They know there are real changes that need real solutions. And they need to act now.
So, rather than just hope the latest global string of record-breaking heat waves and historic disasters are just a fluke, it's not surprising that cities are acting, making serious changes to help recover after disaster strikes. There's an international conversation about how to be a "resilient" city, one where citizens and businesses continue to receive important services so they themselves can be a part of a rapid recovery.
In his address on climate change, Barack Obama made a point about this very topic as he made a call to help American cities prepare for the effects of climate change, saying, "This plan will also protect critical sectors of our economy and prepare the United States for the impacts of climate change that we cannot avoid. States and cities across the country are already taking it upon themselves to get ready. Miami Beach is hardening its water supply against seeping saltwater...New York City is fortifying its 520 miles of coastline as an insurance policy against more frequent and costly storms."
A move toward resilient communities is a huge opportunity for U.S. businesses. Upgrading America's infrastructure to be modern and disaster-ready would infuse $1.6 trillion dollars into the economy, not to mention creating stable and predictable service for a decades to come.