Building a Climate Resilient National Capital Region

In 2013 and 2014, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), General Services Administration, US Global Change Research Program, National Capital Planning Commission, Smithsonian Institution, and the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments sponsored two series of workshops to assist with climate adaptation planning and improve coordination in the Washington D.C./ National Capital Region. The report “Building a Climate Resilient National Capital Region: Federal and community agencies working together on climate preparedness and resilience” summarizes the Climate Change Vulnerability and Adaptation workshop series, providing the results and adaptation strategies proposed for the National Capital Region. 

More than 30 agencies participated in a series of workshops and webinars focusing on climate change impacts on built systems in the region. Vulnerable built systems discussed include transportation, wastewater, buildings, IT/Telecom, Electrical grid, and others. Approximately 40 people from 20 agencies participated in a second group of webinars and workshops addressing the region’s workforce, community, and natural systems. Vulnerable systems considered include workforce commuting, workforce and family health, working conditions, urban forests and managed landscapes, work load (and other factors affecting productivity), water quality, and drinking water supply.

This preliminary report describes some of the cascading effects of climate change, including how it will impact workers. It considers risks such as commuting disruptions, risky working conditions, and health stress. It also identifies potential work-arounds including expanding the number of workers who can telework, improving flood response plans, and considering alternative hours/shifts for outdoor workers. While these considerations provide a good starting place, the report does not cover many issues, such as the unique needs of service workers who lack flexibility to telework or modify their schedules, or the needs of parents who face childcare challenges during school closures. 

Within the workshops, breakout groups developed potential adaptation strategies and implementation actions for each vulnerable system or sector. The summarized vulnerabilities and resulting strategies are provided in the report.

Cross-sectoral “key observations” are given also.  Regarding the implementation of the strategies developed over the workshop series, participants determined:

  • The large scale of adaptation needs requires government funding, which has become more constrained. Consider innovative partnerships that can tap into private sector capital or both.
  • Part of implementation will no doubt include public and policy-maker education about the problem and solutions.
  • Actions will require creative approaches by individual residents and business owners, property owners, federal agencies, local governments, regional service providers, and grassroots organizations - from the site level to community-wide.


Publication Date: September 2014

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  • Planning guides

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