Region Forward Blog

Building a Climate Resilient National Capital Region

Oct 2, 2014
A flooded day on the Potomac Tidal Basin. Photo by Bossi.


As the UN Climate Conference in Bonn Germany gears up this month the National Capital Region is working on climate change locally. Over the past year federal regional and local agencies have been putting their heads together to tackle one of the region’s biggest challenges: how to prepare for the climate change that is already underway. The National Capital Region was fortunate to have the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Office of Strategic Infrastructure and NASA Applied Sciences Division’s expertise to put towards the task. These regional discussions occurred during two series of webinars and workshops sponsored by NASA the Council of Governments the National Capital Planning Commission the General Services Administration the U.S. Global Change Research Program and the Smithsonian Institution.

The just-released workshop synopsis report Building a Climate Resilient National Capital Region offers ideas for how to move forward together to reduce the impacts of heat waves heavy downpours sea level rise and coastal storms. Participants examined the challenges and opportunities from many angles—energy transportation water infrastructure landscapes aquatic ecosystems community vitality and workforce productivity. The challenges are real and the stakes are high but participants envisioned many opportunities to create a more resilient region while achieving other community goals. For instance:

  • Implement actions with a high return on investment to protect infrastructure
  • Promote livable communities within Activity Centers to encourage sustainable transportation
  • Protect and increase tree canopy and green spaces to cool and beautify the region
  • Allow flexible work shifts (especially for outdoor workers) and telework
  • Enhance community vitality and heat resiliency with indoor/outdoor creative cooling spaces

Now it is up to individuals organizations and communities and the region to turn these ideas into action. Already DC Water has begun construction on a sea wall to protect the Blue Plains Advanced Wastewater Treatment Plant the District of Columbia is launching a climate adaptation planning process under the Sustainable DC Plan and many federal agencies are implementing climate adaptation plans. Cutting carbon pollution can go a long way towards reducing the risks from climate change and the National Capital Region ranks as one of the top regions already for green buildings as the 2014 Climate & Energy Progress Report to be released on October 8 2014 will show. These efforts take us a few steps closer towards creating a more resilient region for current and future generations.

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