Asheville’s Climate Resiliency Assessment is designed to help the City be prepared for and hopefully lessen the impacts of future extreme weather and climate change.
The primary purpose of the climate resiliency planning process is to consider climate-related threats and hazards (such as fire from drought or flooding/landslides from heavy rain events) with a goal of becoming more resilient, or better prepared for them, through what is called adaptive capacity.
The current planning phase, Phase II, beginning in fall 2017, focuses on prioritization of identified preparedness options, ultimately to be compiled in a prioritization report. The intent of this phase is to develop options and strategies that can be incorporated in City or community policy agenda. Already, climate resiliency is being incorporated into the City’s Comprehensive Plan.
Climate change is not just a buzzword or an agreement signed by nearly 200 nations gathered in Paris. It affects us here in Asheville. Climate change is expected to bring more flooding — and with it landslides — as well as drought — and with it fires, like the ones Western North Carolina experienced last fall.
Many local governments are recognizing the need to build climate resilience, as extreme weather events are becoming more frequent and/or more severe than in the past. Resilience is defined as the capacity of a community, business, or natural system to prevent, withstand, respond to, and recover from a disruption.
Since 2016, the City of Asheville's Office of Sustainability has been working with UNC Asheville's National Environmental Modeling and Analysis Center (NEMAC) to determine how Asheville can become more resilient to these environmental changes. Asheville’s Climate Resiliency Assessment will help the City be prepared for and hopefully lessen the impacts of future extreme weather and climate change. City departments such as such as Public Works, Asheville Fire Department and Information Technology Services have been part of this research and planning process.
Currently, NEMAC and City staff are analyzing possible impacts of extreme weather by modeling the city’s vulnerabilities — things like the location of steep slopes that could wash out in a flood, how much impervious surface we have that makes rainwaters travel faster, and percent of natural areas for habitat and conservation that are susceptible to wildfires during a drought. Then they will calculate the risks associated with climate-related hazards in the Asheville area, and possible threats to the key assets that the community values. That information will help identify actions the City can take to best prepare for these hazards and other future possible conditions. This would include identifying existing policies and new options that reduce vulnerability and build resilience.
2016 - Asheville's Office of Sustainability begins work with UNC Asheville's National Environmental Modeling and Analysis Center (NEMAC) and other City departments on a climate resiliency assessment.
2017 - Core climate resiliency team continues assessment and moves toward identifying preparedness options or what is called adaptive capacity. Quantifiable metrics from maps and data are being used to understand areas of vulnerability and risk.
2018 - The City expects to share information with the public through an Asheville Climate Resilience Toolkit. A national model exists. View it here. A Climate Resiliency report will be presented to City Council. Its findings will be incorporated into policy decisions.
Amber Weaver, Sustainability Officer