Climate Science in Local Plans

Climate Science in Local Plans

Communities throughout the Chicago region are seeking to prepare for the effects of climate change on their built environment, economy, natural systems, and people. To advance ON TO 2050’s goal of a region prepared for climate change, CMAP is collaborating to create guidance for planners on integrating climate science into local planning. Under a grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the American Planning Association (APA) engaged CMAP and climatologists from the University of Illinois and Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant Consortium to develop a road map to incorporating climate projections, data on natural hazards, and local knowledge to boost resilience through plans.

Local planning processes offer an excellent platform for integrating climate science and data into public decision-making. While climate change presents considerable uncertainty at the local scale, the current state of climate science and planning practice offers sufficient data and knowledge that community plans can be made stronger and more proactive by applying available tools. By including up-to-date climate science alongside a plan’s analysis of demographics and the natural and built environments, planners can provide a foundation for informed decisions about investments in resilience and adaptation.

Planning Process

CMAP worked with communities in the Local Technical Assistance program, including Berwyn, Des Plaines, the Fox River Corridor, and Wilmington, to pilot an approach to assessing climate vulnerability in light of future climate forecasts. As part of each plan, CMAP completed a vulnerability assessment that explores climate-related hazards affecting the community, as well as their projected future exposure and adaptive capacity. Communities can use the assessments to develop informed plan recommendations that can boost resilience to the effects of climate change.

APA will be publishing a guidebook for planners based on this partnership. Drawing on lessons learned from CMAP’s technical assistance as well as researchers with practitioners and experts in planning, disaster preparedness, and climate change, APA’s guidebook will help communities in the Great Lakes region incorporate available climate data into comprehensive and capital improvement plans.


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Berwyn Stormwater Management Plan – Vulnerability Assessment

Des Plaines Comprehensive Plan – Vulnerability Assessment

Fox River Corridor Plan – Vulnerability Assessment

Wilmington Downtown Plan – Vulnerability Assessment