Three Steps to Protect Communities from Climate Change

RAND engineer and information scientist Michelle Miro, drawing on her recent report, describes how climate hazards — such as hurricanes, floods, and droughts — disrupt critical infrastructure systems, and the issue of equity surrounding climate hazard impacts. Miro presents three steps to reduce the risks that climate change poses to communities around the United States.


Michelle E. Miro, Engineer and Information Scientist

Our recent work was focused on assessing the risk that climate change poses to critical infrastructure systems around the U.S. We examined eight different climate hazards, so things like wildfire, drought, flooding, and hurricanes, and looked at how they're projected to change both in space and time. And we looked out to the end of the century to 2100. And then we assessed how those hazards are expected to affect critical infrastructure systems around the U.S.

Another critical consideration when we think about the risks climate change poses to our infrastructure, and really our communities, is equity. What we've seen and experienced is that the exposure, the effect climate hazards have, is unequal across the U.S. This is because climate hazards themselves are distributed differently around the U.S. You don't have hurricanes affecting everywhere in the U.S. at the same time, for example. But also the capacity of communities and the resources and infrastructure they have to combat existing hazards, as well as projected future changes in those hazards, is really uneven. And that leads to disproportionate and uneven impacts of climate change across the U.S.

To reduce the risks that climate change poses to our critical infrastructure systems and our communities around the U.S., individuals, public and private sector parties, can take kind of three main steps. The first is understanding the risks that climate change poses to their communities and to their infrastructure. The second being building adaptive capacity planning and investing in risk reduction measures. And the third being including diversity of voices, including all of those impacted by climate change in the development and implementation of solutions to reduce that risk.

It's really critical to address the risks that climate change poses to our communities and to our infrastructure, to ensure public health and safety, to ensure economic growth and development, and really to ensure the overall well-being of our communities in the United States.