Sarah Hammitt and Jessica Artiles under the direction of Professor Lawrence SusskindAn eight-party, environmentally-focused role-play simulation, Flooding deals with an investment firm that is in the final stages of a multi-year planning process for a large, riverside mixed-use development. FEMA recently updated Evantown’s Flood Insurance Rate Map and the development falls within the 100-year floodplain. In addition, a study by the local university concludes that altered precipitation patterns brought on by climate change will put more and more properties at risk of flooding in the future. Should the firm be allowed to go through with the development? How and to what extent should Evantown take measures to protect itself against flood risks? Who is responsible for paying for whatever adaptation measures are used to protect vulnerable areas?
Evantown Investments is in the final stages of a multi-year planning process for Riverview, a large, riverside mixed-use development. However, the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), through its Map Modernization program, recently updated Evantown’s Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM), and now Riverview falls within the 100-year floodplain (defined as an area that has a 1 percent chance of flooding in any given year). In addition, a study by the local university concludes that altered precipitation patterns brought on by climate change will put more and more properties at risk of flooding in the future. Not only do Evantown’s zoning bylaws prohibit development within the 100-year floodplain, the prospect of increasing flood risks poses new questions about safety, liability, property value, appropriate protective measures, and financial responsibility. Should Evantown Investments be allowed to go through with the Riverview development? How and to what extent should Evantown take measures to protect itself against current and projected flood risks? Who is responsible for paying for whatever adaptation measures are used to protect vulnerable areas. And once the Riverview development issue is resolved, should Evantown allow future projects in current and projected floodplains.
- In a changing climate, property values may change depending on the property’s location and the relative vulnerability to risk. While the ultimate extent to which vulnerabilities will change cannot be predicted, there is a general trajectory for low-lying areas to become more vulnerable to flooding. Property owners, developers and cities may need to incorporate flexible terms into property agreements to maintain fairness in the system. For example, transfer of development rights, land swaps, and flexible land uses can build more resiliency into the private property market.
- Whenever possible, it is critical that cities use data to guide adaptation planning, such as FEMA’s Flood Insurance Rate Maps. Climate models are becoming more accurate and can be downscaled to regional levels. For some areas, these models predict more frequent and more intense storms; the resultant flooding events will impact existing and future development.
- Major infrastructure decisions will be made under uncertainty of future conditions. Taking climate projections into account when designing infrastructure is particularly important because infrastructure investments are usually intended to be in place for several decades. Each city will need to discuss how conservative they wish to be with regard to projected risk. The most successful adaptation planning efforts by cities thus far seem to be those aimed at reducing climate change risks as part of ongoing infrastructure planning, growth management, and capital budgeting activities.
- Regulations from the state and federal level will impact how local governments respond, and local laws may need to be changed in response. Cities can use changes in federal and state regulations as opportunities to assess existing city regulations, spur conversation and education around climate change adaptation, and create city-specific updates to local codes.
- Finally, stakeholders will place different priorities on various short- and long-term goals, some of which will conflict. A short-term goal may be real estate development for economic growth, while a long-term goal may be urban growth management to protect valuable natural resources. Conducting role-playing games around issues of climate change adaptation can help to broaden perspectives, facilitate discussion, enhance scenario planning, and work toward “no-regrets” solutions in which all priorities are met.
This game is one of an initial set of three games that the MIT Science Impact Collaborative has developed to illustrate the need to consider climate change in existing policy debates such as how to improve the condition of a city’s housing stock, rather than only tackling climate change as a separate and comprehensive issue. The other two games written for this series are Heat Island and Water Use.
For all parties:
- General Instructions
- Confidential instructions to the player negotiating for:
- Mayor J. Gray
- Evantown Investments
- Alliance for Evantown’s Environment and Ecology (AEEE)
- Builder’s Association
- City of Evantown Planning and Zoning Department
- Evantown Residents’ Association
- Evantown Affordable Housing Coalition (EAHC)
- All of the above
- Teaching Note
Climate change; adaptation; housing; multiparty; public dispute resolution
- Time required:
- 2-3 hours
- Number of participants:
- Teams involved:
- Agent present:
- Neutral third party present:
- Teaching notes available:
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