Hoboken, Al Paso, Water Management discussed on America Adapts the Climate Change Podcast


With Al Paso there. They saw the solution to flash floods and storm. Water Management is green infrastructure. But they're real obstacle was figuring out. Do you maintain this stuff without becoming a burden on an already overworked maintenance department and so in that case they did some really smart early planning and said well. How do we actually craft a set of solutions invite ideas for green infrastructure solutions that can reduce our maintenance costs and protect our road and so in that case it wasn't about designing something different than they envisioned? It was designing a different way to pay for. It would make sure I understood you right there. You think though at the stage of most cities are going to say but most are at least thinking about the climate change issues. But they're not taking it to that next step kind of doing planning that that you guys are doing that. I have that right. Yeah I think most of these are thinking about climate change. They're different degrees of prepared to panicked but the solution space is still wide open and folks latch on to. I've heard this worked somewhere else or I just need a seawall and oftentimes it takes a deeper dive to get to a better more tailor-made solution that you can actually implemented pay for okay. It's a recurring theme of me. Kind of dissing the south because I am from the South and so do you have any projects in the southeast. Are you working? And don't say Miami because they're that's not because that's one of the southeast city on its own creature because I would disagree and I I just think communities that haven't even did I can't even say it even forget the politics they just don't and so I think there's a level of sophistication that it sort of takes to even want to have a conversation with you and I thank you might push back. I think there's lots and lots of cities that aren't even the most basic like Oh. Climate change is an issue and it. That's very concerning so totally agree. We're coming through entirely different doorways for these conversations stuff which is in in the deep south. We don't often talk about climate what we will do. Start the conversation by saying you know who loses money when this flood happen have gotten worse in the last five years. And that's a very different way to start the discussion and it does require tiptoeing around some very obvious things and it's it's very much when we're involved. I think to be entirely fair. The communities that have their heads entirely in the sand about climate change are not reaching out to us. Our most direct engagement are with folks who see that they have a problem now. See that it's getting worse whether they call that climate or not is still open and or whether they attributed to climate change is still open but it doesn't prevent us from working with them and so I think one of the things that we do pretty differently because we're focused on the finance side of becoming more resilient than we specifically use resilience because there's less opposition to it. In communities that have political challenges in tackling climate change head on we get an entry way into the south end into communities that wouldn't necessarily have things like climate action plans and get to tackle something where it's a really critical underpinning to being more climate smart and resilient and so a great example as Mobile Alabama has been dealing with deferred maintenance backlogs by calling it infrastructure blight. And they're doing a lot more than a lot of communities in the north that haven't dealt with their maintenance backlogs that leave them at greater risk every single year for the next storm but would they call it. Climate change absolutely not. Would they call climate action for sure enough in listen I? I don't think cities need to go out of their way to just say climate change for the sake being politically correct but at the same time. Let's say you're even saying well. I've had fled. It's been getting worse than the last five years if you in. This goes back to that conversation about like. What's the future going to look like compared to the past and if they're still just like well we're planning for that flood. That happened just a couple of years ago as opposed to what's really going to happen in the future the not talking about climate change. That's just seems so problematic. It has its limits right so I think we take pretty pragmatic approach. Which is how do you make things better? If not perfect in in a lot of communities where you're still just trying to open the door these discussions and the incrementally better for us as really we. We measure success by. Who's less at risk? And in some communities that is a very different discussion than others where they're talking about hundred year protection versus tenure protection. And it's very much a community driven decision for us but we have been surprised. I think in places that don't seem to have a lot of deep sophistication about climate modeling or forecasts where we've been able to walk through the door and have a discussion about insurance costs at it. Essentially gets you to the same thing because you're looking at a rising future problem and you can put it into a different framework that makes it a little bit more palatable to solve but I agree. It's a huge problem and I think in order to do this work. You have to be optimistic about the learning curve so we we try to go into every community that way and we do get stuck in some communities we we end up offering solutions that don't get implemented okay. I love speculating about things that I'm going to get you to speculate here. Envisioning how your process unfolds. And let's say there's just this massive uptake you know. The cities across the country are sort of doing it but also at the same time there's going to be winners and losers there are with everything and I just imagined in this sort of future environment. There's a couple of things where get let. Let's say cities that aren't aggressive enough in doing their planning to like we talked about it. They didn't take it seriously enough. Or and you you have that federal experience maybe when it comes to sort of the big grants and the big money that these communities need to tap into they're gonNA say well know. These big areas are under threat of flooding or risk of this. We don't want it. It's going to be a bad investment and I sort of almost envisioned. The rust belt be people fled it. Or the economy's contracted being it was related to some economic. And the you know but I'm just thinking there's going to be the equivalent of a rust belt in regards to like communities impacted by adaptation in the lack of planning or the actual impact. And I just I. I wonder if there's any way to kind of even predict where we might have this contraction in areas. Because of everything that you're doing that's interesting I you know it's it's a fascinating question. It's not something I've thought deeply about but my instinct is that the rust belt was a product of a set of things that economic factors where you can see a geographic concentration of the impacts. That's why it's a belt and I'm I'm from. Pittsburgh is my hometown so I I know it well and what that kind of economic decimation can do to a set of communities. I think two things that are going to make the climate impacts a little bit. Different one is that it's it's not a single force that regionally concentrated right if it were just flooding and you were looking for example at the Mississippi River region. That's been hit incredibly hard in the past couple years. Then you might see more of geographic concentration but instead you have wildfire here in California flood in the middle of the country on the south hurricanes along the coast so I think everybody is feeling different thing. So there's not that Kinda unifying sense of a single thing happening and the other thing is I think we're gonNA see more of the type of I don't know that you call it flight. But just gradual deterioration at a sector level than geographic level where you see impacts that. Play out in industrial corridors. That no longer have access to enough water. Or there's too much water for production or supply chains. So my instinct is that we're going to see this in industrial sector said agriculture sector more readily than we would in specific geographies sector-by-sector going to be impacted. But I do think geography could come into play that you think like Galveston to Tampa you. Could you could be like the flood belt or something like that that. There's these communities it's going to be like a state of enterpise. They solely kind of dissolved. Because it's the infrastructure investments are going to be too great dealing with sea level rise and impacts and geographically places like hoboken New York City. They're going to be able to afford it but other areas. I think this is going to be sort of an unraveling going on. I think that's true and I think we're seeing it in slow motion. It's just such slow motion that it's hard to kind of zoom outing get the blurry picture crystallize. But I think you're absolutely right. We are going to see that. And it's part of why I think the most important things that we can do are some of the least sexy right which is helping small communities in medium sized communities that are less well resourced get better access to the resources to make that leap. So they're not in a zero sum game with a New Yorker San Francisco. But you're actually able to move the needle in Gary Indiana rights. If I'm kind of thinking of what you're doing is here's an opportunity for a community necessarily have a silver bullet to these problems. But it's taking aggressive action to kind of avoid this unraveling sort of pre-planning. You're just. Yeah you're you're climate-proofing yourself as best you can exactly right and I think it's you know it's very much if you if you look at the small medium sized communities it leads you to a lot of issues that don't sound directly. Adaptation related resilience related like deferred maintenance or procurement but those are really the day-to-day stumbling blocks. That keep you from acting and would leave you either indefinitely studying the problem or ignoring it so I got a few more questions in this area and then I want to transition to a just a little bit different conversation but let's say there's someone out there who's involved in this area. I think I have a relatively small team. And if you WANNA mention who who they are and what they do that I think it'd be useful but like if there was a city out there that wanted to do this. Are you even a resource or you so big into like sort of the projects that you're doing? How does that all work? No we absolutely take direct phone calls from city. Our our team doesn't really do any marketing. We are were tiny. Were four five people on any given set of projects that year we tend to do three large infrastructure projects at any given time but we punch above our weight in a lot of ways because we will partner with on higher whole big firms and some of our partners will dwarf us in size. So we've worked really well. With construction firms like Bechtel. They were involved in some of the early early hoboken. A conceptual design work. Big Banking Institutions. Goldman Sachs said insurance companies and brokers like a on as Swiss re. So we have a reach well beyond what the size of our team might reflect and part of the reason for that is. We don't necessarily know what problem we're solving for a city when we first go in so for hoboken if we had had a hydrologist on staff. That might not have helped us very much. We actually needed folks who understood parking and green infrastructure recreational spaces. And so you have to be able to switch out. Skill sets to solve the problems on meet the needs that you actually hear from city and that doesn't necessarily lend itself to growing a small firm what it does is it. It keeps US lean and mean creative team and then we sourced specific skills and resources. We need on a project by project basis so we have a lot of capacity through partners and on kind of early stage projects we work with big institutions like the World Bank and federal agencies. All the way out to directly working with cities and when we see something that is a skill set that other folks have. That's more direct than anything we could provide. We send him to a pretty wide network of partners and so I think we're pretty unusual as a social business that we're.

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