November 1, 2021

Resilience Roadmap Charts Path for U.S. to Plan for Climate Change’s Effects

Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions
Resilience Roadmap Charts Path for U.S. to Plan for Climate Change’s Effects

By Jeremy Ashton

The stresses and shocks of climate change felt all too real in the United States in 2021.

Severe winter storms shut down much of Texas’ power grid in February. A years-long drought led to the first-ever federally declared water shortage on the Colorado River. Wildfires plagued western states most of the summer. And Hurricane Ida brought catastrophic flooding from the Gulf Coast all the way to the Northeast in late August and early September.

Climate-fueled disasters such as these expose vulnerabilities to wide swaths of the U.S. economy. Nearly a third of Americans live in a county that experienced a federally declared weather disaster over the summer of 2021, according to a Washington Post analysis. While extreme weather events are the most dramatic examples of how climate change is manifesting, communities across the country also must prepare for chronic threats to air quality, food security, natural ecosystems, and more.

During his first week in office, President Biden issued a sweeping executive order to address the climate crisis that recognized the urgent need to “move quickly to build resilience, both at home and abroad, against the impacts of climate change.” The new Resilience Roadmap project seeks to help translate that vision into action. Convened by Duke University’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions and Susan Bell & Associates, the project taps a broad spectrum of resilience experts to offer actionable recommendations that inform the administration’s national resilience agenda.

“America needs its new investments in housing, transportation, water, and energy systems to withstand and quickly recover from the fires, hurricanes, floods, snowstorms, and heat waves that have become — and will continue to be — common occurrences in this century,” said Lydia Olander, co-convener of the Resilience Roadmap and director of the Nicholas Institute’s Ecosystem Services Program. “We need to move from shovel-ready to shovel-worthy investments that will build the resilience of our communities and economy.”

The Resilience Roadmap released its initial, high-level guidance in April ahead of a virtual climate summit between President Biden and more than 40 world leaders. Three overarching principles that are critical to all resilience efforts framed those recommendations:

  • Resilience building can and should deliver tangible, on-the-ground benefits, such as creating jobs, safeguarding public health and safety, and stewarding natural resources.
  • Resilience-building efforts must prioritize vulnerable communities, where the impacts of climate change fall most heavily on people who already suffer disproportionately from economic, social, racial, and environmental inequities.
  • Resilience building requires a vertically integrated, “whole-of-government” approach that includes federal government agencies, states, local communities, and Tribal Peoples, as well as community groups, civil society, and the private sector.

As part of U.S. Climate Action Week around the summit, the Resilience Roadmap hosted a webinar with resilience leaders inside the Biden Administration and from Tribes and regional interests. The virtual conversation touched on the new administration’s approach to resilience planning, equity considerations, and how the federal government can work with local communities, as well as other subjects.

While headlines from the summit focused on ramping up efforts to tackle the causes of climate change, the webinar made clear that the administration is keenly aware of the need to address its effects, too.

“I think resilience is going to measure up, and I think the Resilience Roadmap that you have put together will help show us the way,” said David Hayes, special assistant to the president for climate policy, during the webinar.

The Resilience Roadmap project has continued to work with the administration to broaden engagement with the resilience community and harness the expertise that its members bring to bear.

Work on the first phase of this project was funded by Lyda Hill Philanthropies and the Walton Family Foundation. Their support for the project does not constitute or imply endorsement of the Resilience Roadmap.