Ready For Tomorrow: Seven Strategies For Climate-Resilient Infrastructure

Ready for Tomorrow discusses the necessity and strategies to build resilient critical infrastructure, in preparation for future climate impacts. Recommendations for decision makers are provided to help design, fund, and build resilience into policy and public investments in Infrastructure.

The following seven strategies for developing more climate-resilient infrastructure are described:

Make better decisions in the face of uncertainty:

The implications of future climate conditions are different from the risks that engineers currently consider. Uncertainty must be incorporated into project design and inform investment decisions. Allowing for greater flexibility can open up a broader range of stakeholder considerations - such as “different ways of defining a failure, valuing non-market goods such as biodiversity, or defining the probabilities of different scenarios.”

View infrastructure systemically:

Infrastructure exists within natural, built, and human systems and interdependencies can create systemic uncertainties. The failure of one infrastructure element can cause a cascading effect on to other critical services. Example strategies for systems thinking include upstream risk screening - such as in land use and zoning decisions, not developing in high hazard areas, and avoiding maladaptive construction.

Take an iterative, multi-hazard approach:

This can involve a holistic multi-hazard assessment, scenario planning for risk within multiple systems, and strategies that go beyond addressing one risk at a time.

Improve and inform cost-benefit analysis:

Financial analysis needs to include climate impacts on the full life cycle of infrastructure and land use. Cost-benefit analysis can be limited in assessing “the incremental benefits of investments, co-benefits, and perverse impacts over the service life of the infrastructure.” They can fail to recognize the value of non-market goods and services like ecosystem services leading to more built infrastructure instead of green infrastructure, for example.

Mainstream nature-based infrastructure:

Nature-based and natural solutions can provide flexible resilient strategies that often cost less than built or “grey” infrastructure.  There are also many co-benefits of green infrastructure including more adaptability as climate impacts evolve.

Jump-start resilience with immediate actions:

Uncertainty about climate change impacts can delay important resilience measures.  The report suggests some easily adopted actions such as:

  • increasing culvert size to accommodate higher peak-flood levels
  • using pavement mixtures adapted to different extreme temperatures and freeze-thaw cycles
  • updating protocols to remove debris from drainage systems that may clog during severe rain events
  • removing vegetation that encroaches power lines before wildfires

Plan now to build back better:

Post-disaster periods offer unique opportunities to incorporate resilience strategies, and prepare in advance of future disasters.

 

Some additional actions are discussed that can scale up the development of climate-resilient infrastructure:

1.  Invest in building human capacity and knowledge among all stakeholders.

2.  Develop and update standards and manuals of practice for climate-resilient infrastructure. (i.e. bring advances in climate science into engineering practice in the form of technical basis documents). 

3. Get the incentives right. (i.e. incentivize climate-resilient infrastructure, engage the private sector, and in turn monetize the potential financial return from resilience investments).

 

Publication Date: April 19, 2019

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  • Policy analysis/recommendations

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