San Francisco

From rising seas to more intense storms, the climate is changing fast … so fast that it’s often out-pacing the rate at which cities can adapt.

Grossman: “One of the challenges is that infrastructure takes decades to design, fund, and build.”

Marianna Grossman is a consultant who specializes in climate adaptation.

She says decision-making for adaptation projects like sea walls often moves at a glacial pace. Stakeholders must all weigh in. But getting everyone on the same page can be tough when climate change affects large, interconnected regions. Consider California’s Bay area:

Grossman: “You’re thinking about 9 counties and 101 cities coming together and figuring out what should be the sea-level rise strategy for all the cities together. And if I build a seawall in Mountain View, it could flood Fremont. If I don’t build a seawall in Berkeley, it could interrupt the commute for the people from Contra Costa County. So we’re very interdependent and our government structures are very isolated and segregated.”

She says some cities are finding ways to communicate and collaborate on these complex issues. But in the process, they must keep a sense of urgency.

Grossman: “We need to get this thing happening as if our children’s lives depend upon it … because they do.”

Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media.