Atlanta joins New York City, Phoenix and San Juan, Puerto Rico as the focus of the $3.6 million “Growing Convergence Research” project introduced by the National Science Foundation last month to enhance urban resilience to extreme climatic events.
Led locally by David Iwaniec, an assistant professor of urban studies at Georgia State University, the initiative falls under NSF’s “10 Big Ideas,” designed to identify areas for future investment in science and engineering.
The five-year project will unite local experts from the region’s social, ecological and technological infrastructure systems to enhance urban resilience.
Addressing the problems of 21st century cities is a major goal under Georgia State University’s 2011-16/21 Strategic Plan.
Rising sea levels, flooding, heat waves, massive fires and other extreme climatic events post significant risk to communities and their infrastructure. Recent events such as Hurricane Harvey in Houston, Maria in San Juan and fires in California highlight weaknesses and expose the fundamental interdependencies in urban systems that must be addressed in planning for extreme events.
“Urban areas have limited capacity and resources for long-term resilience planning in the face of complex climate-related challenges,” said Iwaniec, a sustainability scientist in the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies’ Urban Studies Institute. “They also have diverse climate, infrastructure, social and ecological challenges, as well as different stakeholder political agendas. And almost no consideration is given to planning for future technologies, economies and demographic shifts that may lead cities to new forms of vulnerability.”
The work builds on research in the Urban Resilience Extreme Events Sustainability Research Network that focuses on positive futures and sustainability transformations for urban resilience.
“We’re bringing diverse stakeholders to the table and co-learning across different cities to develop a framework that will aid all cities in finding their unique responses to extreme events,” Iwaniec said.
Iwaniec will recruit and lead a team of local collaborators from government, nonprofits, community organizations and universities to develop resilience strategies that Atlanta and other cities can implement to prepare for extreme events. This collaborative team will work with a network of interdisciplinary researchers at Arizona State University, Barnard College, The New School and the USDA Forest Service’s International Institute of Tropical Forestry, which are leading this effort in New York City, Phoenix and San Juan, Puerto Rico.
“Our research teams will be contributing to the development of a new science, an emerging urban system science, which is a whole new way of thinking about cities and the frameworks to enhance resilience. It is a radical departure from the status quo,” Iwaniec said.