Letters to the Editor
The New Yorker
DEPT. OF URBAN PLANNING about "climate-proofing." For the past decade and a half, governments around the world have been investing in elaborate plans to "climate-proof" their cities — protecting people, businesses, and critical infrastructure against weather-related calamities.
Much of this work involves upgrading what engineers call "lifeline systems": the network infrastructure for power, transit, and communications, which are crucial in the immediate aftermath of a disaster. Some of the solutions are capital-intensive and high-tech; some are low–or no–tech approaches, such as organizing communities so that residents know which of their neighbors are vulnerable and how to assist them.
Even if we managed to stop increasing global carbon emissions tomorrow, we would probably experience several centuries of additional warming, rising sea levels, and more frequent dangerous weather events. If our cities are to survive, we have no choice but to adapt.
Letter to the Editor of the New Yorker
Nancy Anderson, Ph.D.
The Sallan Foundation
Nada Marie Anid, Ph.D.
New York Institute of Technology
New York City
Eric Klinenberg's overview of the prospects for climate-proofing big coastal cities such as Rotterdam and New York, nods to the value of smart electric power grids, but stops short of proposing the next step: distributed urban power supplies.
Adapting cities to the risks inherent in an increasingly global, unpredictable climate means that the energy systems of twenty-first century cities cannot be twentieth century retreads. We have learned the hard way they aren't reliable, they aren't cheap, and they cannot be made secure.
Beyond the fast-evolving disputes over fossil fuels, nuclear and renewable power alternatives, warnings are appearing about the vulnerability of the nation's power grid to hacking and disruption. We now need plans for scaling up decentralized systems of combined power and heating that can be interconnected through smart local grids.
Additionally, the potential to integrate localized renewable energy sources while cutting power losses that result from sending electricity from far-of power plants cannot be ignored. We know that financing urban micro-grids is possible, but we also know that under current conditions it won't be easy.