As climate changes, more U.S. cities must brace for high heat, bitter cold and worse

The potential risks from climate change facing U.S. cities read like a disaster movie. From floods and tornadoes to droughts and insect invasions, urban areas face a range of threats as the planet continues to warm, a recent report shows.

In St. Louis, for example, officials say the city could face a cold shock, drought, tornado, insect infection, river flood, storm surge, water-borne disease or other climate change hazards in the future. To mitigate these dangers, the city has created a Climate Action and Adaptation Plan that calls for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, building more storm shelters and other measures.

For the CDP report, city officials worldwide were asked to list potential weather hazards their locality may face in the immediate future. Creating a list of such risks is the first step toward creating ways to protect residents, the CDP said. The next step is conducting a vulnerability assessment.

“All city authorities should undertake comprehensive vulnerability assessments,” said Kyra Appleby, CDP’s global director for cities, states and regions. “Only then will cities be able to plan for the new normal brought about by our changing climate.”

While cities like St. Louis are making headway girding for climate change, not enough metro areas are reporting their potential hazards or conducting assessments, said Katie Walsh of CDP North America. The list of lagging cities include Louisville, Kentucky; Sacramento and San Jose, California; Kansas City, Missouri; Fort Worth, Texas; and Anchorage, Alaska.

“Cities that are able to identify the risks that they have are in a better position to be able to respond and react and adapt because they can put in planning efforts,” she said.

Other cities making progress in mitigating climate change risks include New York and San Francisco, though some smaller places are also moving forward.

“San Leandro in California is talking about what demands on city services and health agencies will occur because of high heat,” Walsh said of the large suburban town in Alameda County on the east side of San Francisco Bay. “High heat is going to put both schools and senior citizens community centers at risk.”

San Leandro’s top climate threats are rising sea levels, high tides, flooding and long stretches of extremely hot weather, city officials have said. To address flooding and high tides, the city landed a $10,000 grant from the National League of Cities that officials are using to create a Climate Resilience and Adaptation Plan and help restore 4.3 acres of natural wetlands near a local water treatment plant.

In the Big Apple, officials are looking into potential impacts of major flooding.


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