In this scenario, climate change wreaks havoc on urban and coastal cities. At first, society disregards or downplays climate change and discounts extreme weather events. Over time, however, the increasing severity of climate change impacts will increase the demand for substantial investments in long-term protective measures.

 

Climate Change
on Resilient Cities

Climate Change
  • 10 years from now

    The impacts of climate change are increasingly apparent through extreme storms, intense droughts, and reduced agricultural productivity. Limited preventative action is taken.

  • 25 years from now

    Widespread droughts and agricultural collapse cause major strains on food and water supplies. Sea level rise threatens the existence of coastal cities. As rural populations migrate to urban environments with more secure jobs, food, and water, cities strain under the burden. Support builds for energy-efficient, carbon-neutral solutions.

  • 50 years from now

    Public and private actors are united in helping populations adapt to the new harsh environment, although delays cause higher costs.

High-Tech Construction /
Advanced Materials
on Resilient Cities

High-Tech Construction / Advanced Materials
  • 10 years from now

    Governments and companies invest more in material science research with the hope of combating the impacts of climate change and potential disasters.

  • 25 years from now

    New resilient, sustainable materials hit the commercial market although at extremely high prices.

  • 50 years from now

    Widespread advances in material science enable infrastructure and systems to better withstand the impact of climate and extreme events.

Secondary Trends
on Resilient Cities

Alternative Energy

Autonomous Vehicles

Smart Cities

Policy & Funding

  • 10 years from now

    Interest grows for public-private cooperation to upgrade city infrastructure to be more resilient.

  • 25 years from now

    Early inaction forces governments to invest heavily in climate change mitigation. Governments move to expand smart-city technology to deal with threats and growing populations. Governments introduce broad carbon incentives to try to reduce carbon emissions.

  • 50 years from now

    Public-private partnerships (PPPs) are key in facilitating resilient infrastructure upgrades. Ubiquitous smart city technology, including autonomous public transportation, responds to the needs of growing urban populations.

Implications for Civil Engineers

 

While governments in this scenario are slow to react to climate change, civil engineers need not be.

Infrastructure design will need to account for encroaching sea water, extreme storms, and growing populations. Digital systems that control water networks will need to be designed in a secure and integrated manner that responds efficiently to increased demand. Roads, bridges, and ports will need to be elevated and redesigned to minimize environmental damage, while seawalls, levees, and barriers will need to be built to protect cities from higher sea level and more frequent natural disasters.

The construction industry, including owners, engineers, and contractors, will need to move away from short-sighted focus on build cost in favor of life-cycle costs. Otherwise, the costs of climate response will quickly become overwhelming, as infrastructure is replaced after one disaster only to be brought down again by the next one.

Civil engineers will need to integrate material-science advances into future projects. Resilient materials will also be useful beyond areas most prone to disasters, as society and engineers grapple with issues associated with increasing urbanization and overcrowding.

The responsibility will increasingly be on civil engineers to understand the system dynamics of climate defense and sustainability. Improved materials will help, but not without integration into new mass transit infrastructure, smart buildings, and planning for the obsolescence of traditional defenses like levees and seawalls.