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Climate Resilience Research Agenda

As the climate changes, heavy precipitation, extreme heat, sea level rise and storm surges are increasing the risks faced by communities in and around Philadelphia. There are a variety of ways the region can adapt, but informed decision-making requires focused research regarding how climate change will impact already vulnerable communities, and how it may also create new risks to infrastructure systems, the economy and local ecosystems.

To better understand the implications of climate change on the region, Drexel University is partnering with the Academy of Natural Sciences, The City of Philadelphia, The Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, and the Consortium for Climate Risks in the Urban Northeast to assemble working groups that will identify knowledge gaps that inhibit action. The goal is to develop a research agenda that will ultimately help to make the region more climate resilient. In the working groups, academics, practitioners, governmental decision-makers and community members will develop a set of strategic research activities that, if undertaken, will inform development of regional adaptation and resilience priorities.

This effort will focus attention on knowledge gaps that currently inhibit climate action across the region, and how to fill them, by collaboratively developing research activities that will make our region more resilient to climate change. This research agenda will be informed by community voices, practitioner knowledge, and cutting-edge science, and their intersection.  

Four working groups have formed under the following topics:

  1. Regional Climate Change and Cascading Hazards, led by Daniel Bader and Kermit O
  2. Health and Environmental Vulnerability, led by Dr. Katera Moore and Julie Ulrich
  3. Planning Low-Carbon Adaptation of the Built Environment, led by Dr. Jin Wen and Steve Krug
  4. Regional Climate Governance and Adaptive Management, led by Dr. Christina Rosan and Charles Ellison

The working groups are meeting three times during the summer of 2021. The final work products of each group will be presented in a public meeting in the fall of 2021.

Timeline Overview for CRRA

Details on Working Group Themes

The details below may change as the working groups refine their charge depending on areas of expertise.

Regional Climate Change and Cascading Hazards

This working group will focus on how precipitation, temperature, sea level, and storm surges will change in the Philadelphia region, and what research is needed to better understand and to downscale these effects. The group will consider whether research is needed to investigate whether planning for each kind of climate change can occur independently, or whether an integrated multi-hazard planning strategy is more appropriate. This group will also explore how to build up the knowledge base that helps us understand how different hazards are related to one another, and what kinds of risks they pose for the infrastructure systems impacted by them.

This working group may include members with expertise in climate science, economics, environmental science, environmental justice, sociology, and infrastructure.

Members with knowledge of specific communities will help identify relevant hazard thresholds. Practitioners will bring to the working group key insights regarding decision making processes, and the various constraints and opportunities for action. The participation of academic researchers will be crucial in confronting the climatic uncertainty and variability inherent to the group’s charge.

This group is being co-led by Daniel Bader and Kermit O. Daniel Bader is the program manager for Consortium for Climate Risk in the Urban Northeast (CCRUN), a NOAA RISA Project. He has extensive experience with preparing and communicating climate science information to policy makers, specifically in states across the Northeast. The data he has worked with is the foundation for climate resiliency planning efforts in New York City (through the New York City Panel on Climate Change), New York State and across the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Kermit O is a fourth-generation Philadelphian, a former teacher turned school abolitionist and community organizer, working at the intersection of land, food and climate. His research and direct experience as a teacher coalesced into a critical understanding that schooling actively reproduces various forms of enclosure: the physical, digital and sociopolitical infrastructures placed between people and their fundamental needs — exploiting our labor, polluting our environments, disrupting ecosystems, driving desperate migrations and fueling the climate crisis. Kermit sees abolition as the work of breaching these enclosures, and to that end he continues to explore alternative formations such as participatory action research, to engage people in the collective construction of knowledge, and shared struggle toward ideals of social and environmental regeneration, community self-determination, and ultimately, liberation.

Health and Environmental Vulnerability

This working group will list research activities that will help us better understand the vulnerability of different groups of people and environmental systems (land, water and air) to anticipated changes in climate. The group will discuss knowledge gaps that, if filled, can help to understand the impacts that climate change will have in communities with different socioeconomic, racial/ethnic, or environmental characteristics, on supply chains, and on the food system. The group will also consider research that can better help to elucidate the impacts that climate change could have on people with different background health conditions (e.g. chronic, acute, mental, etc.).

This working group may include members with expertise in natural and social science, public health, air quality, water resources, water quality, hydrology, stormwater management, nutrition, psychology, social justice and community organizing.

Members with knowledge of specific communities will help to identify vulnerable groups of people and ecosystems. Practitioners will bring to the working group key insights regarding health care and environmental management practices. The participation of academic researchers will be crucial in confronting the uncertainty and variability inherent to human and natural systems the group will be discussing.

This group is being co-led by Dr. Katera Moore and Julie Ulrich. Dr. Moore is an environmental justice practitioner and researcher with expertise and practical experience with food systems, health disparities, and flooding vulnerability in Philadelphia. She previously served as the director of the Agatston Urban Nutrition Initiative at UPenn and currently teaches in the Environmental Studies department at Unity College. Julie Ulrich has an interdisciplinary background with expertise in natural science, social science, design and planning, and public health. She has over ten years of climate experience in both environmental and social vulnerability and is currently the director of urban conservation at the Nature Conservancy.

Planning Low-Carbon Adaptation of the Built Environment

This working group will consider research to better help us adapt the region’s built environment (e.g. buildings and infrastructure systems) to expected climate change. The group will list research activities for exploring different future scenarios regarding interactions between climate and other related and parallel changes to the built environment, for example associated with population dynamics, mobility, housing markets, disaster response and recovery, and patterns of expected investment/disinvestment. Finally, the group will consider research needed to transition, re-imagine, and redesign the built environment to be adaptive to future conditions, including associated implications on the region’s carbon footprint.

This working group may include individuals with expertise in urban policy, planning, architecture, landscape architecture, design, engineering, municipal data sets, and urban systems modeling.

Members with knowledge of specific communities will help the group to identify features of the built environment of potential elevated risk. Practitioners will bring to the working group key insights regarding planning, zoning, infrastructure design, engineering practice, and the legal and regulatory context. The participation of academic researchers will be crucial in helping to innovate new approaches to the planning, design, operation, and management of the built environment.

This group is being co-led by Dr. Jin Wen and Steve Krug. Dr. Wen has extensive research experiences in smart building technologies, building-grid integration, urban scale building energy simulation, and occupant behavior. She is a professor in Drexel University's Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering department. Steve Krug's expertise is in energy-efficient buildings and planning in Pennsylvania and the mid-Atlantic region. He is principal of Krug Architects and has led a number of large firms the past 4 decades. He serves on several committees, including as chairperson of the PA Climate Change Advisory Committee, appointed by the Governor.

Regional Climate Governance & Adaptive Management

This working group will explore knowledge gaps that need to be filled to better understand when and how to implement climate action. The group will focus on obstacles to climate risk communication, community outreach and engagement, and hazard interpretation (especially in low-income communities with limited internet access and a high percentage of individuals for whom English is not a native language). The group will disentangle what is and is not known about risk tolerance levels, insurance impacts and other action triggers (such as event-specific or cumulative damages). The group will list data gaps that inhibit climate governance and strategies for filling them. Finally, this group will explore obstacles to innovative governance models, including policies and practices, leadership and political will, local and regional incentive structures.

This working group may include members with expertise in community organizing, local government, public policy, urban planning, education, data science, jurisprudence and economics.

Members with knowledge of specific communities will help the group identify signals that indicate the need for policy change. Practitioners will bring to the working group key insights regarding policy formulation, economic incentives, community engagement, climate risk communication and damage assessments. The participation of academic researchers will be crucial in helping to innovate new opportunities for applied, action-oriented research to promote regional resilience.

This group is being co-led by Dr. Christina Rosan and Charles Ellison. Dr. Rosan is an associate professor of Environmental Studies, Geography and Urban Studies at Temple University. Her expertise spans from urban and regional planning, politics and governance to green infrastructure and urban agriculture with a particular interest in social justice and action-based research. Charles Ellison is the Executive Producer, Host and Managing Editor of WURD & As a communications strategist with specializations in crisis response, advocacy and public affairs, he has extensive expertise in environmental justice/"eco-justice" issues intersecting with multiple policy issues.

Please contact Korin Tangtrakul with any questions:

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