• D. Pataki

New paper highlight: Integrating nature-based, social, and technical climate change solutions

Greening programs alone will not be enough to cope with climate change

Cities have an urgent need for climate change adaptation plans, which can and should include nature-based solutions, green infrastructure, and greenspace planning. But greening programs are most effective when they're planned and implemented holistically alongside other tools for coping with rising temperatures, extreme heat, drought, and flooding.

Most nature-based solutions to climate change take an ecological approach, to leverage the ways that aspects of nature, e.g. plants, soils, animals, and microbes, can improve urban environments. Other approaches to adapting to climate change include technological solutions like adding shade structures to outdoor spaces and designing buildings to withstand extreme heat or flooding. Social approaches involve engaging and communicating with residents to account for local values, structural inequalities, culture, and behavior. Social approaches are greatly needed to improve the acceptance, adoption, and equity of climate policies, urban designs, and technologies.

In reality, many effective solutions to urban climate risks fall at the interface of ecological, social, and technical approaches. Individual approaches can also interfere with or complement each other, making it essential to plan climate adaptations in an integrated way across sectors. But unfortunately, both climate research and climate plans can very siloed, with too little cross-talk between the people and agencies that work with nature-based green infrastructure versus community engagement or technology.

In this paper in the Lancet Planetary Health, Brenda Lin at CSIRO in Australia led an international team of experts in urban climate adaptation to outline the key elements of planning that integrates solutions across sectors, such as: 1) enabling environments for integrated planning; 2) methods that put solutions into local context; 3) synergies across solutions for sustainability, equality, and livability; and 4) collaborative approaches that amplify, transfer, and implement solutions at the scale needed for real and lasting impact.