environmental change initiative

Paper instructions:
The Context
Climate change is a complex issue with a variety of factors and numerous potential negative effects. Cities are often looked at as both places where environmental policy changes can slow or mitigate future impacts of climate change, and also as places that will have to adapt to climate change in ways unique to them.

For this assignment, imagine that you are a consultant for a firm located in the Great Lakes region. You are tasked to help a city (of your choosing) begin or amend their climate change plan. Where do you begin to make change transportation, building design, zoning laws and permits, green space?! It is up to you. It is your job to consider what could be done, what impact could be made, and over what time frame.

Parts of the Great Lakes region are also considered part of the Midwest, so you may want to include this term in your search for sources.)

One final note. An overwhelming majority of scientists believe that climate change is occurring AND humans are contributing to this change–that is not up for debate. That said, no person or model can predict the future with any kind of certainty. Of course models can help us understand, mitigate, and prepare for environmental change, but until it happens, there is no sure thing. On that same note, most urban areas will be faced with a myriad of impacts and change, and many have already began to make changes in the hopes of being able to adapt.

Here are some ideas to get you thinking about potential topics: urban heat island effect (What can be done to mitigate this?), extreme weather events and natural disasters (How might this affect public utilities and services?), and greenhouse gas emissions (Can improved public transit plans reduce carbon dioxide emissions? What about green building?).

The Assignment

Using media articles or research reports, write a brief introduction (4-5 sentences) on why cities are important players in the climate change issue, both in regards to drivers of climate change as well as potential impacts. In this paragraph you also need to identify and introduce a city in the Great Lakes region of the United States or Canada that you intend to focus your paper/initiative on.
Identify an impact that the city needs to prepare for based on climate change models. To do this you must have some understanding of climate-change-related issues/challenges that urban areas are facing.
Name one policy proposal for the city to enact that would help prepare for the impact named in item number 2 above. [Making changes in response to an environmental change is called adaptation.]
What is the environmental impact of your plan? For example, reduce emissions of greenhouse gases or protect/improve water resources.
Name one additional policy proposal that the city can implement to help reduce future impacts on the climate.
What is the environmental impact of your plan? For example, reduce emissions of greenhouse gases or curb electricity use.
[Attempting to slow, stop or reverse these environmental changes is called mitigation.]
Address the economic impact of your plan. In your answer to this question, give some thought to the following:
Is there a way that your city can justify the potential costs of implicating and enforcing your policies?
Is there an economic upside or return on the initial investment?
(Note: you may not find information to provide you with solid answers or numbers. Do not fabricate data, but feel free to use your educated and informed judgement here and describe potential costs and benefits over time–good sources will help.)

We introduced some of these approaches in the Urban Environments lesson in the section about sustainability. Your proposal does not have to be one you made up; you may find that a city council has a specific proposal they would like to implement, and you can argue for why you believe the city should adopt it, or how it could be amended.
Below are some potential research reports (and an article) that you may find useful and a good place to begin to generate ideas. Do not feel like you need to read all of these, but you may want to skim them and use a chapter that is useful to you.

Supporting articles from credible sources are mandatory if you want to receive a passing grade on this paper. While there is no set number, given the subject and scope of the paper and amount of information that exists, four would likely be the minimum number of articles you would want to reference. You are free to cite one or more of these, but you should also find at least TWO additional sources (media article, journal article, research report) published within the last two years to support your positions.

GLISA resources
Climate Change in the Midwest
Resilient Midwestern Cities
Climate Change 2014: IPCC Synthesis Report
Why Cities? Ending Climate Change Begins in the City

While many of the issues and policies are similar in different cities, do your best to be as specific as possible for the city you choose. Local media coverage may help you in that regard. Choosing larger cities, such as Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit or Toronto, will also make it easier to find resources.

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