Storms, floods, heat waves, and drought are becoming more frequent and extreme as the climate warms. In many cities, even a fraction of an inch of rainfall already leads to flooding and sewage overflows. Flooding on major rivers is expected to become more likely, and coastal communities will be threatened by rising sea levels. Severe and prolonged drought is affecting water supply and quality. And deadly heat waves are posing a particular risk to the young, the elderly, and the poor.
Cities and states need to take concrete steps to prepare local communities for these events. NRDC's experts draw attention to the reality of climate change by tracking climate impacts such as extreme weather and sea-level rise. Most importantly, we work with state and local officials to recognize, evaluate, and prepare for potential impacts. One-third of all U.S. counties in the Lower 48 states will face water shortages by midcentury; floodplains will grow by an average of 50 percent, perhaps doubling in size along the East and Gulf coasts; and extreme rainfall will become far more likely.
Our experts are analyzing how key state and local agencies are examining and responding to these challenges. We scrutinize the use of public funds and urge the adoption of cost-effective, climate-smart water strategies, such as boosting water efficiency and building more green infrastructure, like green roofs and street plantings, to absorb rain where it falls. We are also pushing for reforms to the National Flood Insurance Program and making sure federal, state, and local agencies account for future climate impacts in their decisions.
In the Midwest, NRDC is working closely with the City of Chicago, Cook County, DuPage County, and the State of Illinois to develop strategies for dealing with the growing problem of urban flooding. Rainfall regularly overwhelms the region's stormwater infrastructure, causing flooding and sewer backups into basements and below-grade apartments. Because climate change means more extreme rainfall, we are helping identify creative ways that green infrastructure, targeted gray infrastructure improvements, changes in state and local policies, and innovative financial tools can help prepare the region.
The changing climate also increases health risks, the most deadly being a rise in the frequency and severity of heat waves. NRDC's experts help communities prepare for a hotter future, urging the adoption of strategies like street plantings and white roofs to increase cooling green space.