School of City & Regional Planning Statement on Climate Change

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June 8, 2017

The School of City and Regional Planning is actively engaged in research and instruction aimed at helping communities to mitigate and adapt to climate change. This is among our highest priorities given the potential threats to land, environment, economy, and equity represented by the impacts of climate change.  Our work includes:

In our laboratories: 

  • The Urban Climate Lab led by Professor Brian Stone is engaged in the development of accurate forecasts of urban heat in U.S. cities and in advancing the technology of green infrastructure to mitigate the health effects of increases in urban heat and has assisted local governments in the implementation of such infrastructure. 
  • The Sino-U.S. Eco-Urban Laboratory led by Associate Professor Perry Pei-Ju Yang is developing data on energy consumption of alternative urban morphology with the intent to advance building design and construction practices that will reduce energy consumption and resultant greenhouse gas emissions in urban areas. 
  • Center for Quality Growth and Regional Development faculty Catherine Ross, Alex Karner and Timothy Welch work on health impacts and mitigation/adaptation strategies of climate change. Ross’s work highlights the vulnerability and increased exposure of rural populations to emissions resulting from freight and related truck traffic, and tracks emissions reduction strategies of cities in megaregions.  Karner has shown that low socioeconomic groups have disproportionately high heat-related vulnerabilities.  Welch’s simulation models estimating energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions are being used to evaluate and strengthen state-level response strategies.     
  • The Center for Geographic Information Systems (CGIS) led by Professor Subhro Guhathakurta is designing big data-based tools to estimate residential, commercial, and travel energy needs together with associated emissions for neighborhoods in the U.S. metro areas, demonstrating how planning and design of neighborhoods matter for climate mitigation and adaptation.  CGIS Research Scientist Anthony Giarrusso works with the City of Atlanta to assess the City’s tree canopy.
  • Professor Nancey Green Leigh together with University of Illinois Assistant Professor Ning Ai (GT Ph.D. ’11) prepared Planning for Sustainable Material and Waste Management, Planning Advisory Service Report no. 587 (American Planning Association, 2017) laying out waste diversion from landfills that mitigates impacts including CO2 emissions. 
  • Associate Professor Michael Elliott works with the Mahila Housing Trust in India, Bangladesh, and Nepal, building the capacity of women residents of slums to reduce the causes of heat stress and other threats from climate change.
  • Associate Professor William Drummond has contrasted the greenhouse gas emissions profiles of various urban forms with the intent to identify the least carbon-impactful forms of urban development. 

In our classrooms:

  • We teach two graduate courses specifically on climate change:  CP 6190: Introduction to Climate Change Planning; and CP 6217: Climate Change and the City.   
  • In recent years, our students have completed three studio projects on sea-level rise in Georgia in cooperation with the Georgia Conservancy. One of these projects, Tracking the Effects of Sea Level Rise in Georgia's Coastal Communities, led by Professor Emeritus Larry Keating and Dana Habeeb, received an American Planning Association National Outstanding Student Project Award in 2014.   
  • This coming fall, together with colleagues at the University of Guadalajara, our students will prepare a prototype Climate Action Plan for Chapala, Jalisco in Mexico, a pioneering project that we hope will be read and followed widely in other parts of Mexico and beyond.  


The politicization of climate change has added significant institutional uncertainty to the already substantial environmental, economic and equity uncertainties facing our planet.   As a School engaged in preparing future planning practitioners to guide communities in the U.S. and abroad, we are troubled by the increased uncertainties, driving us to redouble our commitment to developing tools and approaches that assist future planners and others to accurately forecast and respond to the challenges of carbon footprint, sea-level rise, urban heat, and other dimensions of climate change. 


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    Jessie Brandon
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    Jessie Brandon
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