As climate changes, Chicago prepares for warmer future

Chicago leads the nation in implementing infrastructure changes to combat the effects of climate change.

Whether you believe the main driver of climate change (né global warming) is artificial or natural, the bottom line is that it's posing a lot of problems for a lot of people -- including cities where the ocean is thousands of miles away.

The City of Chicago gets a nice nod in the New York Times this morning as the city leading the sustainability charge in the United States. But it's not free-range, organic green hype that the city's pursuing -- rather, it's sound infrastructure decisions that will help the Windy City deal with the drastic climate changes it has seen in the last three decades.

Among the projects underway: thermal radar to identify hot spots (for which warm-weather trees will be planted to reverse the trend), permeable sidewalks and streets (to control stormwater runoff), and partnerships with private enterprise for electric car charging infrastructure and zero waste initiatives.

But what's most remarkable isn't the many technologies being deployed. It's the lens through which former mayor Richard Daley and others have viewed the challenge -- not as a polarizing political issue, but as a means for motivation to renovate the city to operate more efficiency.

Leslie Kaufman reports:

"We put each of the priorities through a lens of political, economic and technical," said Suzanne Malec-McKenna, the commissioner of Chicago’s Department of Environment. "What is it, if you will, that will pass the laugh test?"

Among the ideas rejected, Ms. Malec-McKenna said, were plans to immediately shut down local coal-powered energy plants — too much cost for too little payback.

For actions the city felt were necessary but not affordable, it got help again from a local institution, the Civic Consulting Alliance, a nonprofit organization that builds pro bono teams of business experts.

Simply, Chicago is looking at becoming a smarter city through smarter job creation and economic improvement. Sounds like a good plan.

A City Prepares for a Warm Long-Term Forecast [NYT]

Illustration: Chicago Green Alley Handbook

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