As climate impacts escalate, U.S. cities and regions have attempted to fill the federal leadership vacuum. In the midst of federal inertia, the Department of Defense acknowledges climate risk, while defense experts promote a climate security agenda. However, defense adaptation has been modest. Installations and the communities around them remain vulnerable, but these shared risks surface the potential for joint adaptation planning. Case studies of Hampton Roads, Virginia, San Diego, California, and the climate security community in DC show that urban leaders leverage the military presence to reinforce their adaptation efforts and elevate a broader adaptation agenda.
This alliance operates through two main mechanisms: recognizing interdependence and constructing credibility. As climate impacts compromise infrastructural and social networks, urban and military stakeholders have adopted interdependence as an operating premise. Amidst the politics of doubt, the military serves as a “credible messenger” and climate security advocates deploy this authority to build support for climate action. The successes of urban/military collaboration offer lessons for communities to leverage other powerful, place-based institutions with missions aligned to climate action. Urban decision-makers may deliberately cultivate health systems, universities, resource-based industries and even some corporations as adaptation allies.
Dr. Hannah Teicher joined PICS in June 2019 as the institute’s first Researcher in Residence dedicated to advancing climate solutions in the built environment, liaising between academia, government, industry and NGOs. She recently completed a PhD in urban studies and planning at MIT where she focused on cross-sectoral collaborations for adaptation planning. Before beginning her research career, Dr. Teicher practiced architecture with Shape in Vancouver where she played a key role in developing sustainable residential and community projects.