Climate Resilience

This chapter provides more in-depth guidance on resilience as it relates to the Second Nature resilience commitment as well as an overview of resilience as a whole. It is a new concept for many people, so here we do our best to give a useful introduction. There are additional resources at the end of this page if you’d like to find more. And please refer to the Commitments Implementation Guide for more explicit steps for implementing the Commitments. Additionally, it is expected that this guide will evolve in response to learning across our community and additional research and practice that provide insight. Please let us know if you’d like to be part of continuing to create this guide:

Overview of Resilience

This section provides an overview of resilience – what it means, its value as a planning framework, how it connects to sustainability and other climate-focused action, and what it means to engage in resilience efforts.

The first thing to note, before getting into the definitions of resilience, is that it doesn’t come with a specific roadmap and a universal set of steps to follow. Outlined below are some important components and criteria, some questions and examples to guide your thinking and planning, and indicators you might consider in defining success and progress. The resilience of any community or campus will, however, be based its own unique set of characteristics, future goals, existing resilience capacity, current and future vulnerabilities, and tolerance for disruption. Part of developing increased resilience is undertaking the assessment, social engagement, and planning process itself.

The most successful resilience activities will be those that fully embrace the catalytic nature of the assessment and planning, and the strength that diversity and inclusiveness develops throughout the process – not just as an outcome of implementing the resulting plan.

Definitions and Distinctions

Second Nature’s definition of resilience is built on a foundation of scholarly work and pragmatic considerations. To see some other definitions and sources of our research, see the ‘Additional Resources’ section at the end.

It is increasingly essential that in addition to greenhouse gas reduction actions, we must also ensure that our decisions are smart in the face of expected and unexpected changes and extremes. These decisions should not only reduce our vulnerability, but also increase opportunity and value.

Our definition of resilience is therefore as follows:

  • Resilience is the ability of a system or community to survive disruption and to anticipate, adapt, and flourish in the face of change

The important components of this are that it incorporates both short-term disruption and long-term trends, that it is important to understand and anticipate as much as we can about the challenges and opportunities, and that it is not just about survival and bouncing back, but about being able to thrive. The key concept in resilience is that in an era of change, it is critical to develop adaptive capacity, about which we discuss more below.

A Few Key Characteristics of Climate Resilience For Campuses and Communities


Rigidity often imposes brittleness (e.g. it’s easier to ‘break’ a material when it can’t bend, or in the case of a community, if it operates inflexibly, it can cause harsher impacts when shocks occur). To this end, adaptive planning should form the heart of a resilience approach. Since we will never know the future with absolute certainty, a resilience approach incorporates and enhances system flexibility so that planning and management can adapt as we understand more, and so that a range of impacts and possibilities can be accommodated.


Assessing resilience rests on understanding the adaptive capacity of a system or community. In this planning framework, we break down adaptive capacity into five different categories (social, natural, human, financial, and physical). Just like a strong natural ecosystem will often have a large diversity of flora and fauna (it is biodiverse) in order to withstand a wider variety of potential impacts, human systems also benefit from diversity. In addition, often the most vulnerable elements of society are those that are underrepresented in civic processes, yet it is precisely these needs that must be incorporated into a resilience plan in order to reduce overall vulnerability.


An adaptive process requires dynamic learning and allowing actions to be responsive to changing knowledge or circumstances. While it is the goal to be as proactive as possible and anticipate the range of climate impacts you might face, it is not possible to have absolute certainty about the future or to know precisely how successful each activity will be. Therefore it is necessary to build learning and knowledge-sharing processes into adaptive systems. This is part of the reason why we require an annual evaluation of progress within the Presidents’ Climate Leadership Commitments. You have regular opportunities to adapt and reflect on this adaptation based on your changing knowledge. Sharing knowledge across different institutions and scales is also important so that everyone can learn through shared experience.

Prevention and management:

Resilience is not just about adapting to a changing climate, it is also about ensuring that we do as much as possible to prevent impacts in the first place. Resilience blends mitigation activities (those that reduce the likelihood of major climate disruption) with adaptation – managing the consequences of a changed and changing climate. A resilient community will be one that offers low carbon energy solutions as well as reliable power supply, for example.

Resilience and Sustainability

Sustainability and resilience often go hand in hand and mutually support each other, but there a are a few key differences that are useful to bear in mind. For example, while sustainability is focused on supporting actions that can perpetuate without rendering the future less ‘prosperous’ overall (economically, socially, or environmentally), resilience is the capacity to operate in the context of change and disruption, overcoming problems in the short-term and preparing foreferenceimager a different and continually changing future.  So what does this mean in practice? One example a distinction can be found in a focus on efficiency. If we can be more efficient with our use of energy (for instance), the demand for limited and polluting fossil fuels will be lower. This is unquestionably true and a critical climate and sustainability goal. Yet, it’s also important, if we were looking at energy from a resilience perspective, to ask whether we need reliability in energy systems to the point that redundancy (in addition to efficiency) becomes important. In hospitals, for example, it is often more important that the power is never absent rather than having the most efficient use of fuel. With resilience as a framing, we add another question to the mix (reliability in this case), that helps us determine a more complete path forward that serves multiple stakeholders with short and long-term needs.

Joseph Fiksel and colleagues at the Ohio State University illustrate some of the distinctions through the diagram above, which was published in Solutions Magazine.

Rainwater Harvesting Example:

During normal rainfall years, a proportion of residents might use rainwater harvesting to water their yard, (sustainably saving water). However, when a drought occurs and there is less rainfall, some residents’ rain barrels will run dry and because they now have a yard that needs water, they must use city water to irrigate. The city then sees an unpredictable and unexpected spike in water usage just as water availability is already low.
In other words planning for extreme events can be made harder in some cases by something that is otherwise sustainable. To be clear, we’re not suggesting that rainwater harvesting isn’t a good solution in many cases (it is!), but unexpected implications of sustainable behavior in the face of extremes are important to consider in a resilience context.

The diagram is intended to illustrate that if we ask additional resilience-related questions,  we reduce the likelihood that solutions might inadvertently compromise our ability to weather unexpected or extreme events (take rainwater harvesting, for example – see box below). The more we can understand the multiple implications of our decisions, the more resilient AND sustainable we’re likely to become.

Resilience and Climate Adaptation

While resilience and adaptation are often used interchangeably and from our perspective, there is not a great deal of harm in doing so, resilience for us is a broader concept than climate adaptation. Typically adaptation involves specific actions taken by decision makers in response to a current or anticipated threat that exceeds a threshold of acceptable impact. For example, if a community currently experiences a significant and impactful heatwave a couple of times a century on average, it might choose not to invest in major infrastructure or changes in practices because the impact is relatively infrequent. However, if heatwaves are predicted to become more intense, longer, and more frequent, and this is deemed an unacceptable impact, then there are specific adaptations to consider, including accessible cooling centers or increased urban canopies for shade.

Resilience folds climate adaptation into the process, but also considers the overall adaptive capacity of the community and the ongoing ability of the system or community to increase that capacity. A resilient community is one that isn’t just capable of absorbing impacts and change, but using those changes to develop more positive and regenerative capacity. In other words, it has the ability to self-renew even as it becomes better able to prevent disruption. In the heatwave example, a resilience focus might also facilitate considerations of how cooling centers could also increase participation of underserved communities in a variety of activities (as well as provide shelter in other emergencies) – making them less vulnerable and better connected. Another example would be how weatherization of low income residential neighborhoods can reduce overall cost for each family as well as increase the efficiency of cooling and heating their homes. It’s not that climate adaptation activities wouldn’t consider these options, but resilience offers a broader and long-term focus on building capacity at the same time as reducing specific impacts.

Even if we were not undergoing a period of human-induced climate change, resilience would be a useful planning framework, but it becomes especially useful when it can incorporate specific climate adaptation activities into our long-term goals as we recognize the threats.

Resilience and Disaster Preparedness

Some people equate resilience only with bouncing back after a disaster. Disaster planning and emergency management is an important component of resilience and knowing how to prepare before an event, manage operations during an event, and recover after an event is certainly part of a resilient approach. Planning around the long-term trends of climate change and the associated acute or extreme impacts, also builds capacity in the event of other catastrophes (earthquakes, grid failures, terrorist attacks etc). Resilience planning differs, however, when you begin looking beyond managing and recovering from negative impact events and additionally building the opportunity to thrive under different and changing conditions. In other words, resilience is also about facilitating positive change to enhance the overall well-being, engagement, and prosperity of a community (making it stronger overall), and reducing the community’s impact on the surrounding environment while conserving natural resources (making it sustainable in the long-term).

For example, engaging a diverse population in civic planning (a desirable component of resilience efforts), not only invests residents in the community overall, but ensures different segments of the population are considered in terms of resources and amenities (increasing equity), and allows greater social cohesion and smarter resource distribution in the event of an unexpected event. The residents involved in this process are more likely to help, communicate to others, know what to do, financially survive, and to return after ‘the storm’. Therefore the city as a whole is more financially and socially resilient.

While the disaster component is critical (minimizing impact and maximizing recovery) in resilience, the overall goals go far beyond managing acute or catastrophic impacts. Resilience also focuses on eliminating chronic stresses, and maximizing the dynamic potential of citizens and economic and natural resources.

Criteria for Success in Resilience

We outlined a few characteristics of resilience above, but it’s worth spending a few words on some core elements in a successful approach to resilience.

The first element is based on the premise that it is significantly more challenging to be a resilient campus without also being part of a resilient community. All campuses (rural, urban, surburban etc) interact with some form of non-academic community (see section below on Working with the Community) and share resources with the citizens of the city or county, as well as the natural systems of the region. So a specific requirement in the Commitments, is the coordination of planning, and to the extent possible, development of indicators of progress, across campus-community boundaries.

While your local community is not required (nor eligible) to sign commitments through Second Nature, many already have resilience-focused efforts independently or as part of a national network. If they don’t, it is an opportunity for higher education to demonstrate local leadership and to facilitate interaction. In either case, it is important to consider options for campus-community coordination around planning, goals, and progress so that resilience is built broadly.

Another necessary element of a successful approach is assessment and evaluation. Not only is it necessary to start with understanding your current baseline – assessing your resilience capacity as well as where you are currently vulnerable to existing climate threats – but also routinely evaluating your progress and learning is critical. In order to be flexible and adaptive (core criteria for resilience), you will need to be conscious of changing knowledge, changing circumstances, and changing opportunities. This also means you must be receptive to when and how to change tactics or activities. Dynamic assessment and ongoing evaluation allows awareness to build around better ways of doing things, and allows you to make more rapid and effective progress.

Finally, one of the important elements of success in resilience, is the inclusive development of future scenarios. Many resilience activities begin with a vulnerability assessment and while this is an essential component, beginning there can limit decisions to ‘preventing the negative’ without also enhancing the positive. By including in your approach inclusively-developed and relatively comprehensive future visions for the community and campus (including existing scenarios the city or college might have already developed), you can ensure that activities or goals you have to reduce vulnerability also help move towards the preferred future.

Working with the Community

U.S. Resilience Map

The U.S. Resilience Map serves as a resource to Climate Commitment and Resilience Commitment Signatories in the Climate Leadership Network.

This map lists the U.S. cities in the 100 Resilient Cities (100RC) network, and institutes that have resilience-related programs/initiatives broken down by their National Climate Assessment regions.

Learn more about the 100RC

Explore the regions


A Resilience Planning and Implementation CampusCommunityTaskForceFramework


While there are many different ways to approach resilience, and Second Nature’s framework is but one, we are providing a framework that not only assesses and tackles vulnerability, but also assesses and enhances overall resilience and adaptive capacity. In other words, this goes beyond managing extreme and potentially catastrophic events – it also includes proactively planning for preferable futures.

The diagram on the right outlines four steps in the resilience planning framework and while you can do several of them concurrently, and in fact will want to do some iteratively, we outline each in turn.

Resilience Assessment (assessing current capacity)


As has already been mentioned, many planning efforts for resilience begin with a vulnerability assessment. If you already have a vulnerability assessment, great, it’s perfectly fine to have this up front, but we advocate starting with an assessment of current resilience for two reasons:

  1. If you start with vulnerability, your decision tends to then focus on reducing the negatives (the vulnerability) that you can already define. Of course, this is necessary, but as a sole focus, this can limit the opportunity to create more rounded, long-term, multi-faceted and ongoing resilience efforts across the campus and community.
  2. If you look at your vulnerability before you look at where you want your community and campus to be in the future, you tend to assess your future vulnerability (say to sea level rise, or heatwaves) based on your current community systems and infrastructure. Whereas, if you want to reduce vulnerability to the kind of heatwaves expected in 20 years, then this should be in the context of civic and campus systems you expect (and want) to have in 20 years.

In other words, focusing on building a resilient system can be more beneficial than reducing individual vulnerabilities.


The basic approach to this assessment is not tremendously different than a SWOT (Strength Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis (see Organizing for Action). You can tailor the comprehensiveness of this analysis to your capacity as a staff or committee. It can be done as part of a short workshop, a series of longer workshops, or interviews and surveys across the campus and community for example.

When you do your analysis, it will be useful to start to capture the output using  five categories of adaptive capacity (social, human, natural, physical, financial – shown in the middle of the adaptive capacity circle later in this section). . These categories can then form the basis for your development of  indicators (see also measuring progress, and ‘indicators’ in this section). 

Workshop Exercise Idea:
If you are incorporating a workshop exercise into your resilience assessment, one idea is to ask people to write down their ideas of strengths, assets, and vulnerabilities on sticky notes and stick them on a large poster of something like the blue circle idea on the wall. Then after your initial ideas are there, everyone can go back with colored dots to ‘vote’ on which ones they agree with. This is a great way to engage a diversity of participants and get very different ideas of what people consider to be assets or vulnerabilities.

In a workshop setting, It’s sometimes the best approach to give people relatively little guidance on what is allowable, but if you want give people some ideas, you can think about themes noted below in the ‘WHAT’ section.  


Core components of a resilience assessment include:

  • Understanding your strengths and assets
  • Understanding your weaknesses (existing vulnerability), and
  • Developing initial resilience indicators that capture where you have or want capacity in the future (including opportunities).

In essence, the resilience assets that you value as a community and campus are likely to be things you will want to improve as you go forward (e.g. wage equality, recreational space that also protects against flooding, a ‘fit’ community), and the weaknesses or vulnerabilities will be things you want to reduce or eliminate (e.g. residents in floodplains, lack of weatherization of community housing, obesity, poor air quality days). All of these are useful to gauge at the beginning and on an ongoing basis (to understand how you are improving resilience), so it’s useful to capture them in the form of indicators. Some possible starting themes to determine your indicators include: diversity, health and wellness, local food access, the distribution of wealth, a culture of small business, policies that encourage renewable energy,natural landscapes that act as buffers, education and training, a sense of place, degree of capital investment, community engagement etc. Capturing the unique characteristics and strengths of your campus and community is most important. Don’t be limited to these themes or examples. WheelIt is also likely that you can draw on existing analyses or plans that exist on campus or in the city/county.

On the right, in the adaptive capacity circle are the five categories that this planning framework uses to capture adaptive capacity (social, human, natural, physical, financial). Also included are examples  illustrating the kind of relationship between measurable variables, how these combine to form an indicator, and how these relate to the different areas of adaptive capacity.


More on Vulnerability

Although developing an early understanding of current vulnerability is a step in this initial resilience assessment, the full vulnerability assessment will be done later – in response to where you want to be in the future, not just where you are now.

While your workshop participants or interviewees understand some of the vulnerabilities, it will also be useful (and perhaps necessary) to take a more data-driven approach to further capturing these vulnerabilities even at this initial stage. It is useful to look at some of the weather and climate events (and perhaps other stresses) that the community has actually experienced and do a preliminary analysis of the impacts. Most likely there are faculty who have studied local events and their impacts and can assist in providing data and information. For example, if there have been heatwaves – are there particularly affected neighborhoods? what was the additional death rate? is that changing over time between different events? what was the lost income (not just damage cost)? Was there associated loss of power or public transportation? Was there damage to roads or transmission lines? Was there habitat impact? Are there policy changes as a result? etc. You can get as detailed as you have the capacity to accomplish – the more information the better – but as long as you have some basic information, this will help set the foundation, which is the goal at this stage.

You will then have more of a preliminary understanding of what kind of events can already cause disruption and how the community typically responds, before you even turn to the changes you expect in the future. Most communities will have several events in the last several decades to draw on – from snow emergencies to flooding, storms, heatwaves (even non-climate events like widespread power outages, or transportation failures could be instructive). Again, this should be as comprehensive as you’re able to manage on staff time and capacity and you should enlist as much help as you can from across the campus and community. Some of this analysis is a great opportunity for student projects and engagement.

Finally, coming back together, sharing the results of the resilience assessment, and the initial vulnerability analysis should allow you to develop a sense of your indicators of resilience. They will not be ‘firm’ or final until you have gone through the next steps but you will have some sense of where resilience assets are and have already helped moderate the impact of events, and where there are existing vulnerabilities that appear likely to need further resilience investment.

Future Scenarios

A scenario planning process enables a community to explore a range of futures and weigh the associated opportunities, benefits and challenges, and expected vulnerabilities.

Many communities have already been through scenario planning exercises and if this is the case, we don’t recommend that you recreate the process or do something new, but use this information to feed into resilience planning. However, if that scenario process did not involve the college or university, you may want to use the output of that scenario process as input to do your own campus version to assess the role of your higher education institution in the future of the community. Additionally, if a more comprehensive scenario process (as described below) appears unmanageable initially, then a ‘visioning’ exercise can be done that is often just the workshop piece and can be as small as necessary or as inclusive as possible. At some point, the preference is to go beyond the visioning however, since it is only when you examine different parts of the system under different scenarios that you begin to see where your indicators, vulnerabilities, and preferred pathways converge.

If your community has not already been through a scenario-driven process, then there are several guides for how to do this that can be tailored for your circumstances. A few resources are listed at the end of this chapter, and a more complete scenarios planning guide will be available through Second Nature early in 2016, but in brief, the steps can include:

  1. Clearly articulate the end goal for the process: e.g. we want to focus on scenarios for 2030, and we want to create several scenarios and intercompare futures while keeping options open, or we want to create several scenarios and converge on one main scenario (or whatever you choose). And be clear about the boundaries of the area you are looking at – the city and the county, just the town, just a part of the county, and possibly just the campus, though of course we want this to be at least coordinated with existing or emerging city plans.
    1. important note. Instead of starting with the whole community or campus, it’s possible just to start with being a ’water resilient city’ or a ‘transportation resilient city’. While we encourage systems thinking, beginning with one theme will still touch on many of the areas of resilience capacity. This may be a more manageable process for those who are new to this effort.
  2. Identify the stakeholders and ensure that there is a communication plan to reach them. The process should be inclusive with underrepresented groups present, but of course, there is also appropriate balance between an inclusive process and too many people. Some communities do a series of stakeholder meetings, and some do just one or two workshops. You should decide based on your staff and budget and the amount of joint effort possible with the city etc.
  3. Set out a timeline for the project.
  4. Create a ‘business-as-usual’ scenario. Before the workshop, you can create a scenario that includes a future campus/city that reflects development continuing as expected, and demographics shifting as expected, and climate changing as expected. This is an opportunity to bring in the different departments on campus and in the city to create this scenario.
  5. Hold the scenario workshop(s). There are many ways to do this, but consider starting out by understanding what the participants think are strongly-held community values. And then perhaps progress to asking some either/or questions to gauge priorities. For example would you rather have a safe walking route to school, or a tax incentive for small businesses? Would you rather see a policy for renewable energy or more programs for at-risk teenagers? Clearly these are not real either/or questions. Many people will want both, but if forced to answer, it may start to yield insights about whether there is more focus on economic development, natural resource conservation, social enhancement, etc.
  6. From the information you gathered at the workshop, create the scenarios. As mentioned in #5, if you structure your questions or information gathering well, there are ways to break down the input into a few scenarios. You can, through the experts at the college and in the city, create several internally consistent scenarios where if the focus is on, for example, economic development as a high priority, this would contain policies to support business and higher education and there may be implications for commuting, transportation water and energy use.

Often at this point, you would share the ‘chosen’ (or multiple) scenario(s) back with the community but in terms of creating a resilient community, we also want you to examine likely climate changes and vulnerabilities that may impact the feasibility of the scenario before you would demonstrate the scenario(s) publicly and/or commit to pursuing that vision.

So, once you have you the vision(s) for the future, then you can assess specific risks to reaching your vision that might be posed by climate change (and other risks if you are able to incorporate these too).

Climate Impacts and Vulnerability Assessment

Anticipating Climate Impacts

In order to see what kind of climate changes are expected for your region, there are a variety of resources, many of which are credible and useful. We suggest that federal and state-level resources are a good beginning, because they typically have to meet higher criteria for rigor and transparency. We are providing you access to regional climate information from the U.S. National Climate Assessment (NCA) – one of the most rigorous resources available involving thousands of experts from around the country. This includes climate information from observed (recent) trends, to future projections all the way out to 2100, but also including nearer-term projections. The information in the NCA and in other government sources is unlikely to get as granular as the city scale – some is regional in resolution, others state-level. It also provides information for several different emissions scenarios (meaning if we globally continue to emit greenhouse gases at current rates versus accelerated or reduced rates), and so all the future climate conditions are a range.  

Overall these data may feel as though they’re not detailed or specific enough, and you may be tempted to seek out data that is higher resolution and instead of a range, you might prefer a specific number. However, caution is required here. High resolution future climate projections are not always supported by the science – in other words, it will imply accuracy in prediction, which the scientific community doesn’t have at the moment. So your vulnerability assessment will need to incorporate some degree of uncertainty in the projections. This is partly why resilience framing is a useful approach, because building resilience capacity overall (rather than just in response to specific and expected climate changes) can reduce vulnerability to a range of possible impacts.

You will be able to see from these data whether you will be at more risk from heatwaves, droughts, flooding, heavy rainfall. You should then work with campus and city experts and faculty to ascertain which part of the city (neighborhoods) or campus and what infrastructure would be at risk under these changes – this forms the heart of a vulnerability assessment (next section).

At this point, you now have an understanding of your current resilience capacity and some initial indicators, you have developed scenarios that capture preferred futures for the campus and community, and you have an understanding of expected climate. So now you can refer to your future scenarios to see how your capacity would change, and how you anticipate campus, neighborhoods, infrastructure, demographics, and economic bases, etc will become stressed under the impacts of a changing climate.

Vulnerability Assessment

As with other aspects of this planning framework, this can be as detailed or as broad brush as you need for your uses and based on your resources.

Some additional resources on vulnerability assessments are provided at the end of the chapter. Basic steps can include:

  • Start with a clear list of the expected changes in climate from your analysis of anticipated external risks. Make sure you are aware of changes in magnitude and frequency of events.
  • Refer back to your initial assessment of resilience capacity and analysis of existing stresses or recent impacts on the community. Remind yourself where the community has already felt negative impacts or has shown resilience.
  • Compare this to the future scenario you have and the systems expected to exist to support the future scenario. If you are expecting more heatwaves for example, does your scenario include energy that is off the grid (and perhaps less likely to be disrupted in the face of transmission disruptions from heat and power loading)? Or does it promote a city that has increased use of open space and therefore has residents at some increased risk to heat exposure during recreational activities? And what will the health structure of the campus/city look like – will there be more or fewer residents who are at higher risk from bronchial or other issues exacerbated by heat? and what will the transportation options include – are you likely to have poor air quality at the same time as a heat wave?
  • Also ask questions about demand vs supply (e.g. for power and water) under the different climate impacts and in your future scenario (e.g. more water use and more drought could indicate the need for increased reservoir capacity).
  • And finally ensure you know about limitations in the adaptability of your system. For example, there may be natural barriers to increasing water storage in reservoirs, if your community water is predominantly from spring mountain snowmelt.

Decision Options and Actions (folding into a plan)

You will now be able to go through a process of evaluation against your scenario, using the climate information, community feedback and your vulnerability analysis in order to select appropriate pathways towards your preferred scenario(s) as well as decision options and actions you would need to take to reach your desired future while moderating the climate risks.

You can now revisit your indicators so that you pick indicators that build on your resilience capacity, move towards to your preferred future, moderate expected impact, and reduce vulnerability. Once you have the complete package of a chosen scenario, a summary of expected climate risks, and the indicators the city/campus will use to track progress, you should also share these back to the community.

Our Commitments allow this process of building internal and external structures for planning and collaboration, developing the initial resilience assessment, and putting together this final plan, to take three years. While that sounds like a long period of time, the engagement with the community and developing scenarios is best undertaken in a way that can develop social aspects of resilience even while you go through the process. The process itself builds social resilience, it’s not just part of implementing the plan. Since building interpersonal and institutional relationships and connections is part of that process, this will take time.

Additionally, if you are already part of the Carbon Commitment and already have a climate action plan, this will be both an advantage and a challenge. You will want to ensure that goals you have outlined for emissions reductions fit with increasing resilience. This may require amending some of your existing goals. Certainly merging objectives around building resilience into curriculum and research with existing carbon reduction curriculum and research goals is ideal. The intent with this planning work is that it allows the campus (and community) systems to become more integrated and to reduce emissions while also enhancing the adaptability of the system. We do not intend for you to have a separate resilience plan from existing climate action and sustainability plans, but rather fold resilience objectives into your overall sustainability approach.

As mentioned at the beginning, it is expected that this guide will evolve in response to learning across our community and additional research and practice that provide insight. Please let us know if you’d like to be part of continuing to create this guide:

Appendix: Indicators Examples:

See below one example of indicators that relates to a fictional scenario of a city that encourages use of outdoor space but expects increased heatwaves and heavier rainfall. We will be adding a list of example indicators over time.

Indicator Areas of capital Rationale Example Variables
A Health and Wellness Index social,


A resilient outdoor-using city would be:

  • healthier as a result of using the outdoor space
  • would need to be healthier in order to be resilient to hot days outdoors,
  • would need to be healthier in order to overcome the behavioral inertia to use the space.
  1. Over 100 grassroots adult and youth leaders (people who have experience in communities with disparities) are empowered to effectively influence the development of policies that address health disparities.
  2. 80% of residents (and 100% of low income residents) are less than a 15 minute walk from a bike trail and/or a park/natural space
  3. Increase the percentage of children in grade 1-3 who are a healthy weight by 10% by 2020
  4. Decrease the rate of tobacco use among teens by 20% by 2022
Urban Green Space Indicator natural



a resilient outdoor-using city would be:

  • using outdoor space for more than recreation
  • would support diversity of natural habitat
  • would be safe and low crime at all hours of the day and night
  • would provide shade, cool, and energy on hot, sunny days
  1. increase city ‘green space’ by 10% by 2020 and 20% by 2025
  2. Provide 20% of all city green space as natural habitat. Engage local NGOs, schools etc in developing and maintaining wildlife, bird, native plant sanctuaries
  3. Provide low energy (LED) and dark-sky lighting for all trails, pathways, bike paths etc through urban green space
  4. Provide 50 small business opportunities for deployment in urban green space by 2023. Including food trucks, artisan stalls, farm stands, book stalls etc. Provide $200,000/yr (starting in 2018) in grants to establish and support microbusinesses in urban green space (with preference for minorities)
  5. Increase shade coverage by 3% each year until 2025 through tree planting and solar panel-covered walkways
  6. wifi hotspots will be accessible in at least 10 distributed places in the urban green space and will include seating
Water management Indicator physical


a resilient outdoor-using city would be:

  • using outdoor space to absorb and manage increasing stormwater and reduce flooding elsewhere
  • would not be using city water to irrigate
  1. Ensure that 90% of all vegetation in urban green spaces is drought and heat tolerant for current and expected future hardiness zones
  2. By 2025, 99% of all urban green space will be permeable
  3. 3% more storm water from the city can be safely channeled to and accommodated by the urban green space each year until 2025 (requires investment in some physical infrastructure across the city)
  4. rainwater harvesting and stormwater re-use will provide 100% of irrigation needs for the urban green space
Accessibility/ Transportation Indicator physical social a resilient outdoor-using city would be:

  • able to support all residents in accessing the city and the green spaces safely, cheaply, and without using fossil fuel
  • residents and visitors to the city will be able to be outdoors without having to negotiate around parked cars or breathing in vehicular pollution
  • the health effects of hot days will not be exacerbated by transportation-related smog
  • bicyclists should not have to negotiate vehicular traffic any more than necessary
  1. 10% increase in bus routes/frequency by 2022, running routes to all segments of the city, and most routes facilitating access to urban green spaces. 20% increase in frequency for low income neighborhoods
  2. All buses will be low emission by 2020 (carbon and particulate)
  3. Bike parking will be available not less than every other block of the city and every quarter mile of the urban green space by 2025
  4. All new city parking structures will be underground
  5. two direct routes from east-to-west and from north-to-south across the city will be transition to bike-access only (no vehicular traffic)
Safety and Events indicator social



a resilient outdoor-using city would be:

  • able to use outdoor space to inform the community of events and warn them of danger
  • provide a safe haven in the event of emergency
  1. outdoor spaces would include digital noticeboards every half mile with community events and happenings
  2. (if applicable) Community underground shelters will be provided to accommodate up to 20,000 residents by 2025 in the event of tornado threat. Location, priority and communication will be targeted to low income or vulnerable residents
  3. OR, cooling centers able to accommodate up to 20,000 residents will be in place in easily accessible locations by 2025. These will have grid-independent power sources and will be used for community events outside of emergencies

Additional Resources:

Resilience Assessment and Reporting


Assessing Adaptive Capacity and Planning

Scenario Planning