The City of Asheville’s Climate Resilience Assessment has been a collaborative effort with UNC Asheville's National Environmental Modeling and Analysis Center (NEMAC). Led by the Office of Sustainability, this initiative has been ongoing since 2016 and involves various City departments. It 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.
Plans for community involvement are a priority for a successful completion of the project’s next phase. Public information sessions and a climate resilience resource guide will be available in late spring 2019.
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.
City departments such as such as Public Works, Asheville Fire Department and Information Technology Services have been part of this research and planning process.
NEMAC and City staff have been 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.
Following completion of Climate Resiliency Assessment, the project will include an initiative to promote preparedness to climate threats through communication, education and awareness of the results of this climate resilience planning process.
That information will help identify actions the City — and its residents and businesses/industries — can take to best prepare for these hazards and other future possible conditions.
A team of City staff will participate in two internal workshops, facilitated by UNC Asheville’s NEMAC, to identify key messages for public communication. These messages will highlight information and strategies the public can consider for building resilience on their properties and within their neighborhoods. The messages will be targeted towards specific public audiences, including neighborhoods and residents, residential properties, commercial properties, and industrial properties.
The results of the staff workshops will then be used to develop a resource guide for the public. UNC Asheville’s NEMAC is tasked with the design and development of the content for the publication. This content will also be used by IT services in the development of a complimentary public resource guide via the city’s Simplicity platform.
Public information session will be held after the development of the publication and will also include engaging and implementing the Government Alliance for Race and Equity toolkit to ensure equitable access and implementation of suggested best management strategies; building resilience to Asheville’s climate threats.
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.
2017-2018 - 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.
2019 - 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