Climate Adaptation Forum
The Climate Adaptation Forum (formerly the Climate Change Adaptation Community of Practice) is an ongoing series of DVRPC-hosted, half-day workshops, taking place two to four times per year. It brings together professionals currently engaged in preparing for climate change. Each workshop features one or more professionals presenting on their current activities related to addressing a particular climate change adaptation issue. This workshop series is solutions focused.
This forum looked at how the City of Philadelphia is working to understand, plan for, and adapt to the impacts of climate change, highlighting the opportunities and challenges posed by the nexus of climate change, environmental justice, economic development, equity, urban systems, and environmental health. The forum highlighted the ways in which the city is on the forefront of the Delaware Valley’s efforts to strengthen resilience in the face of more frequent and more intense storms, floods, heat waves and extreme weather events.
The forum featured five panelists from multiple city departments discussing how they are working to operationalize resilience through outreach, plans, and projects, with an emphasis on how collaboration and education are needed to move past the status quo and effect meaningful change.
This Climate Adaptation Forum looked at how coastal, riverine and stormwater flooding threaten the function and health of the overall roadway system as a changing climate brings sea level rise and more intense rainfall events.
The forum highlighted recent and ongoing research aimed at understanding how our roadway infrastructure is affected by flooding and climate change and what tools are available to prioritize investments to protect it. The program featured three panelists, Michael Scott, Ph.D., Salisbury University, Elkins Green, Director of Environmental Resources, NJDOT, and Dan Szekeres, Senior Associate, Michael Baker International, presenting their current research conducted on behalf of the Maryland, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania departments of transportation respectively. The presenters talked about models to assess vulnerability, the payback on investments made to protect transportation infrastructure, lessons learned, existing data gaps, and plans for future research.
Panelists participated in a moderated discussion, which included questions from participants.
Flooding causes tremendous social and economic disruption to communities, and recovery can be very costly. The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) was created in 1968 in to identify and reduce overall flood risk, and provide affordable flood insurance. Almost all municipalities in the DVRPC region participate in the NFIP. However, due to catastrophic storms in recent years, such as hurricanes Katrina, Sandy and Harvey, insurance claims have vastly outstripped the premiums collected by the NFIP. As a result, the program has borrowed almost $30 billion from the US Treasury that it cannot afford to repay. Furthermore, climate change is projected to increase flood risk, due to both sea level rise and more intense precipitation events.
Against this backdrop, this Climate Adaptation Forum explored the structure of the NFIP, and discussed policies under active consideration to restructure the program to appropriately assign responsibility for risk, support vulnerable communities, and enhance long-term resiliency. The tradeoffs involved are complex. However, they must be addressed, as the program continues to operate in a deficit and the value of assets exposed to risk from flooding is only expected to grow.
For this Climate Adaptation Forum, participants were led by Kristin Baja, Climate Resilience Officer of the Urban Sustainability Directors Network, in The Game of Floods. The Game of Floods is an interactive game-based exercise to help participants understand the process of conducting a vulnerability and risk assessment and think about strategies to protect public assets from current and future flooding. The game is played in a series of steps and integrated into a presentation. Attendees progress through the steps from climate science, to asset inventory, to vulnerability, risk, and adaptation planning.
Using real-world examples selected for local governments, the game focuses is on the impacts of flooding on two sectors: transportation and stormwater management, although other issues inevitably enter into the mix. The game's real-world examples are gathered from cities and partners, and embed equity and climate justice principles.
Extreme weather events and other natural disasters threaten the operations and the capital assets of transit systems across the country. Billions of dollars of transit assets—vehicles, track, equipment—have been destroyed by extreme weather events, halting service, sometimes for long periods of time. In a changing climate, the frequency and severity of these disruptions are expected to increase. Transit agencies can greatly reduce this cost and disruption by incorporating resilience into their systems.
This Forum focused on a recent study on how best to make transit systems resilient to extreme weather events. Jon A. Carnegie, AICP/PP, Executive Director of the Alan M. Voorhees Transportation Center at Rutgers, opened the forum by sharing the results of this study. He was be followed by representatives from the major transit agencies that serve the DVRPC region—PATCO, NJ Transit, SEPTA, and Amtrak—discussing their agencies' extreme weather resiliency and climate change adaptation activities.
A changing climate affects how professionals plan for and execute waterfront development. New threats include rising seas, heavier storms, stronger winds, and increased riverine flooding, in addition to more hot days, fewer days below freezing, and longer periods of drought. This event provided a forum for those who work on waterfront development to learn about and discuss threats and solutions.
Co-hosted with DVRPC’s Healthy Communities Task Force, this workshop gathered planners and public health professionals to hear about the likely effects of climate change on public health and steps being taken to prepare and adapt state and local health systems to these changes. The workshop featured presentations by representatives of the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the New Jersey Climate Change and Public Health Working Group, and the Philadelphia Department of Public Health.
This workshop provided forestry and urban tree professionals a better understanding of how trees in our region are expected to respond to the inevitable threats of climate change. The workshop included presentations by expert panelists about their research on the health of current tree species and the selection of species in the future. Panelists also took questions from workshop participants.