Grand Rapids, Michigan Climate Resiliency Report

The West Michigan Environmental Action Council, in partnership with the Grand Rapids Office of Energy and Sustainability, investigated climate change resiliency for Grand Rapids, Michigan with city grant funding in 2012. The outcome of the study was the identification of key impacts across community sectors in Grand Rapids, and recommendations for managing these impacts through adaptation and resiliency planning. Drawing on interviews from local experts from a wide range of sectors, the report uses the triple bottom line framework to analyze the social, economic, and environmental aspects of climate resiliency.

The report includes a description and analysis of the climate modeling the team used to assess climate risks for the city. Grand Rapids is expected to see increases in average temperature and precipitation, with warmer winters and wetter winters and springs. Grand Rapids and the entire Great Lakes region expects to see more volatility in weather year to year, and more extreme weather events.

The report addresses a total of 22 topics under the social, economic and environmental categories - including transportation, the built environment, food systems, water supply, wetlands, urban forests and public health for example. For each, it summarizes the importance of that topic to climate resilience, expected climate impacts, and opportunities to enhance resilience within that sector. For example, in the agricultural sector analysis, the report notes that the changing climate may lengthen the growing season, but that those benefits may not increase yields or may be offset by more intense storms that cause erosion and soil degradation. It suggests that the agricultural sector look to insurance for data and guidance.

The report concludes with specific climate adaptation recommendations in terms of social, economic, and environmental benefits.  

Regarding Environmental issues - Grand Rapids is described for its "unique position as an urban center that has aspects of a natural ecosystem within its boundaries and immediate surroundings." As such, the climate resiliency strategies listed consider not only solutions for the ecosystem components themselves but also those that will preserve communities’ ability to interact with these resources.  

The Social component recognizes vulnerable populations as those with limited resources and mobility - and recognizes the need to better understand impacts and solutions concerning food insecurity, housing, economic uncertainty, physical displacement, and health in these at-risk populations.  

Economic recommendations are based on the understanding that economic impacts from climate change will be "far-reaching, interconnected, and difficult to precisely anticipate." A few example Economic focused strategies include to:

- Research and implement climate-resilient street maintenance and construction practices, particularly for materials and physical infrastructure.

- Change the transportation culture in Grand Rapids to one built around multimodal, vital streets, providing equal access for all social levels with diverse transportation requirements.

- Municipal insurance, capital projects, and asset-management planning should include assessments for exposure to drought, temperature change, flooding, storms, and climate mitigation.


Publication Date: December 2013

Related Organizations:

  • West Michigan Environmental Action Council (WMEAC)
  • City of Grand Rapids, Michigan


Resource Category:

Resource Types:

  • Assessment
  • Policy analysis/recommendations

States Affected:


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