Advancing Research on Climate Resilience

((Focus)) on water and energy infrastructure around climate change.

CSPO continues to be at the cutting edge of worldwide efforts to understand and enhance the resilience of technological infrastructures to climate change. Working with the ASU Fulton Schools of Engineering, and building on the pioneering work of our Climate Change, Engineered Systems, and Society partnership with the National Academy of Engineering (NAE), CSPO is launching a new research initiative to examine the vulnerability of interdependent infrastructures to climate change in the United States. “The biggest challenge to US infrastructure from climate change stems from the fact that distinct systems, like water and energy, are tightly coupled together, but our methods for risk and vulnerability assessment generally model only a single system at a time,” says CSPO Associate Director, Clark A. Miller. “Recent disasters demonstrate that it is the linkages between systems that give rise to unexpected problems.” Miller is co-PI of a nearly $600,000 award from The National Science Foundation (NSF) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA) through their joint Water Sustainability and Climate (WSC) program. Looking at water and energy systems in the US Southwest, the project will tackle the question of how vulnerabilities and resilience propagate from one system to another.

A second key innovation in the project is to model not only technology and the environment but also the social and institutional management and governance of infrastructure systems. New HSD student Changdeok Gim will be conducting research under the initiative to examine how water and energy governance institutions contribute to vulnerability and resilience of the coupled water and energy systems. ASU Senior Sustainability Scientist Mikhail Chester is the principal investigator of the project  WSC-Category 1: Advancing Infrastructure and Institutional Resilience to Climate Change for Coupled Water-Energy Systems.

Reaching out to engineers and leaders who need to take action to enhance the resilience of infrastructures to climate change is a key part of the initiative. As part of the Climate Change, Engineered Systems, and Society partnership, the NAE has also just released a new report assessing the challenges facing US infrastructure—and the communities that depend on it—from the threat of climate change. The report documents the results of three workshops of national leaders in engineering, science and technology policy, and science communication, co-hosted by NAE and CSPO over a three-year period. Miller is also featured in two new videos released by the NAE’s Center for Engineering, Ethics, and Society (CEES) for use in engineering education on climate change and infrastructure, based on interviews conducted during the January 28-30, 2013 national meeting on “Climate Change and America’s Infrastructure: Engineering, Social, and Policy Challenges,” hosted by CSPO. At this conference, leaders in climate adaptation, city management, engineered systems, public engagement, and other key fields gathered to work through the wide-ranging implications of climate change for infrastructure.

CSPO is also working with the Alliance for Innovation to effectively engage city and county leaders in planning for climate change vulnerability, resilience, and adaptation. Miller will present on infrastructure vulnerability at the Alliance’s Big Ideas 2014 meeting in Ft. Lauderdale, FL, Oct. 24-26. The Alliance Big Ideas meeting brings together managers from over 400 of the nation’s most innovative cities and counties to confront and share insights into common challenges and opportunities. The central theme for Big Ideas 2014 is resilience and will include a major focus on climate change and engineered systems, including opportunities to learn from Ft. Lauderdale’s efforts to plan for rapid sea level rise along the Florida coastline.