For anyone who lived in New York City and New Jersey during Hurricane Sandy in 2012, this is old news. Only a few days after the disaster, then New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg declared that something needed to be done about global warming in order to protect major U.S. cities like New York from its impact.
The concern is not just held by lawmakers and climate scientists, but also by private sector organizations that view the threat of climate change as one variable among several that add risk to their investments.
A recent report by Grosvenor, a real estate corporation based in Britain, ranked 50 of the world’s most important cities by a measure they call “resilience,” which is a city’s potential vulnerability to climate change, natural disasters, and social pressures and other factors as well as its ability to adapt, or bounce back from those shocks.
Grosvenor’s researchers concluded that U.S. cities rank well when it comes to overall resilience– but it isn’t because they aren’t vulnerable to shocks like climate change, natural disasters, failing infrastructure and “community strife” that results from inequality.
Climate change is only one of the factors that go into a city’s overall vulnerability rating. It includes an analysis of a city’s vulnerability to rising sea levels, hurricanes and typhoons, wildfires, floods, droughts, and vulnerability to earthquakes and tsunamis.
Among U.S. cities, Los Angeles and Seattle are among the most vulnerable to climate change, according to Grosvenor’s rankings. And Chicago, Boston and Washington, D.C are among the least vulnerable to climate change, at least among U.S. cities.
Check out how cities world-wide rank on climate change and four other factors (environment, resource, infrastructure, and community):
Grosvenor’s overall focus on resilience, however, changes the dynamic. Even though cities may be at risk of shocks from climate change, environmental disaster or structural decay, their ability to recover from those shocks matters too.
“The strong US ranking is due to adaptive capacity, where resources, public accountability of elected officials and the technology of the US are dominating factors,” the report says. “This suggests that US cities will continue to see a pattern of effective public intervention, but often only after a major shock has occurred.”
The good news is that among the top 10 most “resilient” cities in the world, five are in the U.S. And the top 10 U.S. cities are:
4. Washington, D.C.,
7. New York
9. San Francisco
10. Los Angeles
To Canada’s credit, Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver rank as the three most resilient cities in the world.
“Canadian cities have a strong combination of low vulnerability and high adaptive capacity. There is a high level of resource availability, and Canadian cities are well governed and well planned,” according to the report.