Growing Stronger: Toward A Climate-Ready Philadelphia

Growing Stronger is a climate adaptation plan for the City of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The plan describes Philadelphia’s impacts from climate change and presents the City’s strategies to respond and reduce those impacts.  

This resource was featured in the May 20, 2016, ASAP Newsletter.

"The City of Philadelphia exemplifies how a collection of small actions can provide the opportunity to develop a comprehensive, longer-term plan. In 2015, the City of Philadelphia published its first climate adaptation plan: Growing Stronger: Toward a Climate-Ready Philadelphia, in partnership with ICF International. The process of developing the plan showed how much Philadelphia is already doing to build resilience to changes in climate, extreme events, and sea level, including:

—The Department of Public Property and the Streets Department are both acquiring asset management systems that can integrate information on climate change vulnerability to inform investment decisions
—Philadelphia Airport, which is vulnerable to sea level rise, is upgrading its electrical substations to ensure continued operation during floods, storms, and extreme heat events.
—Philadelphia Water is modeling and mapping customer complaints to better understand its vulnerabilities to flooding
—The Department of Public Health is implementing a number of warning and advisory services during heat waves, including operating a hotline, declaring heat warnings, and coordinating with other city departments during heat emergencies.
—Philadelphia’s long-term climate adaptation plan features these and other existing actions, creating a sense of momentum around adaptation. Existing small-scale actions serve as the foundation for scaled-up efforts to prepare for future changes in climate, and as building blocks for activities that other departments adopt. Building a long-term plan based on existing action also may help improve future buy-in for larger, more coordinated and strategic efforts to address vulnerabilities and build resilience across Philadelphia.

The plan categorizes the primary effects of climate change into three categories:

  1. New normals – changes in precipitation patterns and temperature will mean that the typical climate of Philadelphia will not be the same as the one that informed building and infrastructure choices in the past;
  2. Changing extremes – extreme events including heat waves, intense rain and snow, tropical storms, and hurricanes may become more frequent and severe; and
  3. Rising seas – higher sea levels will raise water levels in the Delaware and Schuylkill Rivers, putting parts of the City at risk of flooding or permanent inundation.

The plan first describes Philadelphia’s climate vulnerabilities. It outlines the potential costs of climate risks stemming from both disaster expenses and increased annual operating costs (e.g. higher road maintenance costs or increased electrical demand).

Next, the plan outlines existing and potential strategies to reduce Philadelphia’s risks. The strategies are organized by city department, including the Department of Public Property, Office of Fleet Management, Department of Public Health, Philadelphia International Airport, Parks and Recreation, Streets Department, Philadelphia Water, Office of Emergency Management, Office of the Director of Finance, City Planning Commission, and the Department of Commerce. The plan also describes a number of inter-departmental opportunities.

This plan was developed by the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability and the Climate Adaptation Working Group. ICF International was the lead consultant.



Publication Date: November 2015

Author or Affiliated User:

Related Organizations:

  • City of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

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Resource Types:

  • Adaptation plan

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User Comments:

  • April 23, 2018
    Andrea Webster, Implementation Manager

    The document presents an easy to manage approach to develop climate adaptation strategies by municipal department. After reading the document, I can clearly understand the process they took to identify ongoing and target strategies.