Climate Action and Resilience Task Force

Implementing a Climate Resilient Emory and Partnership to the Broader Metro-Atlanta community

Climate Resilience Highlights

In the face of the growing risks and effects of climate change, Emory University is implementing a resilience plan to address these risks on campus and in the Greater Metro-Atlanta community.

Emory’s Climate Action and Resilience Task Force created Emory’s Resilience Framework.

The Rockefeller Resilience Framework and The Stockholm Resilience Framework were used to inform the final development of Emory’s Resilience Framework.

The Rockefeller Resilience Framework

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The Stockholm Resilience Framework

The Emory Resilience Framework

Emory’s Resilience Assessment was conducted in terms of four dimensions:

  • Health and Well-being focuses on people at Emory and in our surrounding community.  This dimension considers the extent to which Emory supports and/or enables everyone to meet:
    • basic needs (food, water, and shelter), particularly in times of crisis.
    • diverse livelihood opportunities, including access to business investment and social welfare.
    • the health of its community through its normal and emergency healthcare provisions.
  • Economy and Society focuses on the organization of Emory.  This dimension considers the social and economic systems which enable people to live peacefully, and act collectively. This is only possible once basic needs are met.  Included within this dimension are:
    • the systems that enforce law and order and ensure fiscal management.
    • the environment that creates collective identity and mutual support  (i.e. open spaces for cultural heritage).
  • Infrastructure and Ecosystems focuses on the quality of infrastructure and ecosystems that protects, provides, and connects us, such as:
    • the robustness of infrastructure and ecosystems that protect us from natural hazards.
    • the continuity of critical services under shock or extreme events, such as water supply, power distribution, and solid waste management.
    • the transportation systems that enable the flow of goods, services, people, and information.
  • Leadership and Strategy is underpinned by knowledge.  A resilient institution learns from the past and takes appropriate action based on evidence. This means Emory must:
    • have effective leadership and management, characterized by inclusive, interdisciplinary governance.
    • empower its stakeholders by providing access to information and education.
    • continuously develop in an integrated way that aligns with Emory’s vision and mission statement.

Climate Resilience Benefits

The goal of Emory’s Climate Action and Resilience Task Force is to best prepare our university in the face of growing climate-related threats in the Southeastern region of the U.S. and in Georgia.

Climate Risks in the Southeast

  • Sea level rise threatens both the natural and built environment as well as the regional economy.
  • Increasing temperatures affect public health, the natural and built environments, energy, agriculture, and forestry.
    • Increases in frequency, intensity, and duration of extreme heat events
  • Water availability is threatened due to population-growth and land-use change.

Climate Risks in Georgia

As of the 2015 Preparedness Report Card, Georgia scored C- in overall preparedness to climate risks.

  • Drought: C+
    • Drought has large impacts on Georgia’s agriculture, which provides peanuts, peaches, pecans, and the sweet Vidalia onion to the entire nation.
Georgia’s projected national rank in summer drought threat.
  • Extreme heat: C-
    • More than 310,000 Georgians are especially vulnerable to extreme heat (those <5 years old, >65 years old, and/or living in poverty).
Average temperatures in Atlanta have been steadily increasing since 1950.
  • Wildfire: B-
    • More than 4.6 million people living in Georgia, or 48 percent of the state’s population, are living in areas at elevated risk of wildfire.
Georgia’s projected national rank in wildfire threat.
By 2050, inland flooding in Georgia is expected to increase by 40%.
  • Coastal flooding: D+
    • 100,000 Georgians are at risk of coastal flooding. By 2050, an additional 38,000 Georgians are projected to be at risk due to sea level rise (those living in the 100-year coastal floodplain).
By 2050, Savannah is expected to experience a 100 year flood annually.

The City of Atlanta and Resilience

The City of Atlanta joined the 100 Resilient Cities Network in 2016, a Rockefeller Foundation organization, which concluded in Summer 2019.  A resilient Atlanta would allow for all individuals, businesses, communities, and systems within the city to survive, adapt, and thrive in response to any acute or chronic stresses.  The City of Atlanta has a vision for 100% clean energy consumption by 2035.

The City of Atlanta Resilience Framework.

Atlanta Resilience Overall Strengths

  • Local identity and culture
  • Medical facilities and healthcare
  • Local business development and innovation
  • Robust and diverse local economy
  • Higher education

Atlanta Resilience Overall Weaknesses

  • Housing
  • Land use development
  • Infrastructure deficiencies
  • Public transportation and mobility
  • Education (K-12)
  • Communication and collaboration among stakeholders

How It Works

Emory’s Climate Action and Resilience Task Force pushes Emory’s Climate Action Plan forward by conducting campus assessments and developing resiliency strategies.

Emory’s Climate Action Plan

Emory University’s Climate Commitment pushes our Resilience Commitment. Emory supports the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and has revised Emory’s Sustainability Vision based on the latest science. According to the United Nations IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C (2.7°F), global net anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions would need to fall by ~45% from 2010 levels by 2030 in order to reach “net-zero” by 2050 (October, 2018).

By adopting these standards in Emory’s Sustainability Vision, we will invest in a portfolio of innovative projects that provide resilience, research, teaching, and national leadership benefits to Emory by 2025.

Below are some key points from Emory’s Climate Action Plan:

  • 16% decrease in total GHG emissions since 2005
    2020 Goal: 20% decrease in GHG emissions
    2030 Goal: 45% decrease in GHG emissions
    2050 Goal: Net-zero GHG emissions
  • At least 40% of water is reclaimed by the WaterHub
    2025 Goal: 50% water reclamation
  • 160 tons of fryer oil was made into biofuel for Emory shuttles in 2017
  • 37% of purchased food is local and sustainable
    2025 Goal: 75% local and sustainable food 

Research Funding Opportunities

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Resilience Organization grants funding to faculty working with local governments.  These grants could fund campus planning and community enhancements.

How to Conduct a Resilience Assessment

Emory’s Climate Action and Resilience Task Force developed the Resilience Framework at the top of this webpage based on guidance documents from SecondNature.org.  SecondNature is leading the national effort in developing a resilience framework based on the commitment to climate.

Example Indicators and Potential Metrics of Resilience.

Below are the key steps in a Resilience Assessment, derived from the Second Nature website.

  • Understand strengths and assets on campus, in the community, and across both.
  • Understand weaknesses and vulnerabilities on campus, in the community, and across both. (i.e. climate change hazards, impacts, and existing conditions that may be exacerbated by climate change or affect a school and community’s capacity to cope and adapt)
  • Develop initial indicators of resilience that help benchmark current status as well as identify where a campus and/or community hopes to improve capacity in the future.
  • Identify key overlaps and gaps between the campus and community assets and vulnerabilities.

The Urban Adaptation Assessment of Atlanta

The Notre Dame Global Adaptation Initiative (ND-GAIN) leads the Urban Adaptation Assessment (UAA), which is an interactive database that demonstrates cities’ levels of risk and readiness in terms of flood, heat, cold, sea level rise, and drought.  Risk and readiness are quantified on a scale of 0-100, where lower scores for risk are better, and higher scores for readiness are better.

The purpose of the UAA is to give leaders the data and information they need to best make decisions about optimal adaptation and preparation strategies, such as for a resilience framework.

Overall Risk Score in Atlanta, Fulton County
(from 0-100, lower is better)

  • Overall Risk Score: 32.53 = low risk
  • Flood Risk: 26.1
  • Heat Risk: 35.2
  • Cold Risk: 35.4
  • Sea Level Rise Risk: 0
  • Drought Risk: 33.3

Overall Readiness Score in Atlanta, Fulton County
(from 0-100, higher is better)

  • Overall Readiness Score: 55.11 = high readiness
  • Flood Readiness: 55.1
  • Heat Readiness: 55.1
  • Cold Readiness: 55.1
  • Sea Level Rise Readiness: 55.1
  • Drought Readiness: 55.1

Sub-City Profile and Map of Atlanta, GA

This sub-city map of Atlanta allows you to visualize where climate hazards and social vulnerabilities are highest. The map above shows heat hazards, with homes built before 1970 set as the built environment variable, and the housing instability set as the social vulnerability variable.