Case Studies in Building Community Resilience

August 19, 2015

Explore how sub-national jurisdictions (municipalities, states, and special administrative regions) in the United States and China are taking action to build resilience to natural hazards, extreme weather, and climate change with a series of new case studies produced by the Georgetown Climate Center and Georgetown faculty. 

By comparing the efforts undertaken in this diverse set of jurisdictions, the case studies highlight ways that communities across the world are being affected by climate change and some of the efforts underway to respond to impacts that are already being felt. For example, case studies from Louisiana and Shanghai focus on reducing vulnerability to coastal storms and flooding. Case studies of Austin, Texas, and Beijing include those cities’ efforts to address water scarcity. Finally, profiles of Washington, DC, and Hong Kong include measures to address urban heat impacts.

While some of these locations are explicitly considering their vulnerabilities to the effects of climate change, others are implementing measures that will build their long-term resilience without explicit reference to climate change. 

The case studies examine the resilience initiatives of the following jurisdictions:

  • The State of Louisiana: This case study examines state and local activities to reduce coastal vulnerability from sea level rise, extreme storms, and land subsidence.  It focuses on how the state is prioritizing and designing coastal flood protection and restoration projects in consideration of future sea-level rise through the Louisiana Coastal Master Plan, and discusses local efforts to consider climate change in land-use plans including the Lafourche Parish Comprehensive Resiliency Plan and the City of New Orleans Master Plan.
  • Shanghai, China: This case study examines how Shanghai is addressing flooding and storm impacts by building a levee system along the Huangpu River, expanding seawalls along the coast, and upgrading the city’s urban drainage system to include green infrastructure.
  • Austin, Texas:  This case study discusses how Austin city agencies are developing a city adaptation plan, assessing climate change risks across sectors, establishing of a Water Resource Planning Task Force, and developing recommendations to address long-term reductions in the city’s water supply in response to resolutions from their city council.
  • Beijing, China:  This case study examines how Beijing is responding to reduced water supply by converting farmland to forest to reduce water needs, expanding water recycling programs, and promoting more efficient irrigation technology.  The case study also examines how it is hoped that a large national water diversion project will reduce the city’s vulnerability to long-term water shortages.
  • Washington, District of Columbia: This case study discusses the District’s efforts to reduce urban heat islands by making grants to pilot the use of cool roofs, implementing the Smart Roof Initiative to retrofit District-owned buildings, and adopting of a new Green Building Code.
  • Hong Kong, China: This case study examines how Hong Kong is responding to urban heat islands and increased flooding by expanding the urban tree canopy, deploying an extreme heat warning system, building sea walls with sea-level rise in mind, and using vegetation to prevent landslides. 

These case studies report on specific activities that are being undertaken in each jurisdiction. They do not evaluate the effectiveness or appropriateness of these actions.  The Georgetown Climate Center collaborated with Professor Joanna Lewis  at Georgetown University’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service on this interdisciplinary comparative research, supported by the MacArthur Foundation and the Georgetown Environment Initiative.