“The impacts of global climate change are already being felt in the United States and are projected to intensify in the future – but the severity of future impacts will depend largely on actions taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to adapt to the changes that will occur.”
Kansas City’s Office of Environmental Quality website quotes the fourth national climate assessment (NCA4)
As part of our effort to raise awareness of the need to improve our home resilience and educate homeowners in the U.S on solutions to climate risks, we gather information on resilient actions, strategies, and challenges from key cities in the U.S.
In this blog, we focus on the city of Kansas City, Missouri, and its climate resilience efforts.
Kansas City is the largest city in Missouri in population and area. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the city had a population of 508,090 in 2020 that spread over 319 square miles.
The city lies in the Midwestern United States, at the confluence of the Missouri and Kansas rivers. It has a humid subtropical climate. Summer months are hot and humid, with moist air coming from the Gulf of Mexico, and high temperatures surpass 100 °F. The winters are cold and dry, with 22 days that their high temperature is below 32 °F.
Kansas City is located in "Tornado Alley", a broad region where cold air from Canada collides with warm air from the Gulf of Mexico, leading to the formation of powerful storms. The Kansas City metropolitan area has experienced several significant tornadoes in the past. The Kansas City climate zone is also subject to ice storms during the winter, such as the 2002 ice storm during which hundreds of thousands of residents lost power for days and weeks.
I spoke with Andrew Savastino, Chief Environmental Officer in the city of Kansas City, who laid out the approach, strategy, challenges, and hurdles the city faces as it is working to incorporate climate adaptation into its actions.
To learn more about resilience vs adaptation climate change, check out our blog on the difference between the terms.
The Climate Change Assessment for Kansas City analyzes the change in local climate conditions through the end of the 21st century. The report is based on two of eight global human greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions scenarios from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC): the first being a high emissions scenario (current state) and the second, a moderate emissions scenario, in which the rate of increase in GHG emissions slows due to mitigation efforts.
The assessment discusses the following climate risks as the city’s primary climate concerns:
Extreme heat: Kansas City is expected to see an increase in the annual average temperature of 4°F by mid-century (2021-2060), and roughly 7°- 8°F by the end of the century (2061 - 2100).
Heatwaves are projected to increase, on average, by 5°F by mid-century and by 11°F by 2061 - 2100. Hot nights, in which the temperatures remain high after sunset, are projected to increase in temperature and frequency, providing fewer opportunities for recovery from the heat.
Cooling degree days are projected to increase, meaning an increase in the need for cooling in the summer. Savastino mentions that Kansas City already experiences a high energy burden and electric bills will increase further as heat rises.
Drought: Summers are expected to become hotter and drier, raising the potential for prolonged droughts in the remainder of this century. The number of annual consecutive dry days is projected to increase as well.
Although access to adequate drinking water is not an issue in Kansas City, there are still concerns that increased periods of drought would increase water needs, loss of urban tree canopy and wildlife habitat, crop damage, low crop yields, and infrastructure damage.
Increased flooding: Kansas City is projected to experience an increase in annual average precipitation of roughly 4 percent by midcentury, an increase in extreme rainfall amounts, and the number of excessive rainfall days. These prospects raise concerns about extreme flooding events.
Kansas City has a high risk of tornadoes, thunderstorms, and hail, yet the city doesn’t assess those risks as primary risks in its climate protection and resilience plan. The city relies on the Regional Climate Risk & Vulnerability Study in prioritizing the strategic risks.
The City’s Climate-Resilient Actions
The city of Kansas City is launching its journey toward climate resilience.
In 2008 the city implemented its first climate protection plan that focused on mitigation strategies. In May of 2020, the City Council passed a resolution to update the Climate Protection Plan to include new GHG reduction goals, resilience, and equity.
The Office of Environmental Quality is working on a Climate Protection and Resiliency Plan that will include a framework to help the city adapt to the present and future climate impacts. The climate adaptation and resilience plan will include strategies such as improved energy efficiency in buildings, increasing the use of renewable energy, planting trees, and green infrastructure.
The city has undertaken extensive research to explore and locate additional strategies.
One approach the research has taken is to aggregate climate challenges and solutions from residents. This approach expands the resources available in unexpected forms, engages and raises awareness for climate action and preparedness.
The city implemented several creative and well-executed initiatives for this purpose:
Once aggregation and analysis of strategies and solutions are finalized, the city plans to prioritize the strategies with the help of a climate consultant. Only the most impactful solutions to help meet the climate goals will be implemented, due to budget constraints. The plan is projected to be released in January of 2022.
The climate assessment concluded that near-term climate adaptation should focus on water systems rather than heat adaptation. This conclusion is based on changes in rainfall that are already present and expected to continue, whereas an increase in temperatures is an emergent change.
In the meantime, KC Water is working diligently on upgrading their water, wastewater, and stormwater systems:
Kansas City pursues the implementation of two notable initiatives:
Promoted Residential Resilient Strategies
The Missouri River runs down the middle of Kansas City, dividing it into two parts: north and south. However, in terms of adaptation strategies, Savastino believes there should be different solutions for three separate parts of the city: the cooler north, the center of the city which experiences the heat island effect, and the south.
Savastino mentioned several key strategies the city recommends for homeowners to increase energy efficiency. Improved energy efficiency strategies help reduce the energy cost and mitigate further global warming. These strategies also help preserve indoor temperatures for longer, better withstand severe cold and heat waves, thus making homes more climate-resilient:
Another recommended strategy is planting trees as the city is seeing a loss of its tree canopy. A larger tree canopy will help reduce the urban heat island effect, provide shade and increase biodiversity, among other benefits.
KC Water promotes strategies for residents to help manage stormwater. Such strategies can help protect the city’s potable water in flood events and reduce flood damage:
Kansas City is a member of the Mid-America Regional Council. MARC serves Kansas City along with the nine-county Kansas City metropolitan area. Among other services, it shares information on stormwater management strategies for residents’ backyards.
Finally, KC Water recommends that residents consider purchasing flood insurance. It includes information and directs to where it can be purchased.
In our Better Together blog about resilient communities, we state that actions that bring the community closer together, are actions that also strengthen it and build its resilience.
Climate mitigation and adaptation strategies best align when they come to strengthen resilience in communities. Here are a few illuminating examples in Kansas City:
Kansas City generally adopts new building codes every 6 years.
In June of 2020, the city adopted the 2018 International Building Codes without the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC). Instead, the city plans to adopt the updated IECC 2021.
Local compliance for the Energy Empowerment Ordinance requires owners of buildings 50,000 SQ FT, or greater, to submit their energy and water consumption to the city.
Kansas City Water Service (KC Water) manages a set of local rules and regulations. A requirement that addresses residential customers aims to protect the public drinking water supply: properties with a sprinkler system, a fire protection line, or other water service lines that are connected to the cities distribution system, in addition to their main service line, are required to install a backflow device. The backflow device must be registered with the KC Water Backflow Division and tested annually.
Kansas City has begun its challenging journey to increase its climate resilience and is off to a good start. The Office of Environmental Quality has been addressing climate mitigation strategies and is now entering an uncharted territory of climate adaptation.
The city turns to climate experts, local and governmental organizations to expand knowledge and search for solutions.
The city recognizes that solutions can emerge from the bottom up and engages its residents in the processes of strategies exploration and climate action planning.
The open channel of communication allows information to flow from residents to city experts, yet there is still work to be done to improve the opposite direction of this channel. Residents need access to information on climate adaptation strategies and incentives through the city’s website and other platforms to help them prepare for extreme climate events.
As the city obtains information and resources on climate adaptation, I trust it will share it with residents, as they do with mitigation strategies. Check out these informative and easy-to-do Steps to Help the Environment..
In the meantime, residents of Kansas City need to go the extra mile to find information on climate resilient strategies for residential properties and locate knowledgeable and certified service providers to help implement those strategies.
For example, Kansas City has high risks of flooding and strong storms such as tornadoes, but Savastino says that safe rooms are rarely seen in residential properties. Residents may take cover from storms in basements or other low-lying structures. Yet, low-lying structures are the first to flood in extreme precipitation events. This is a challenge residents will have to overcome while preparing for climate extremes.
The city’s promising initial phases of its plan toward resilience consist of creative and engaging initiatives. They build a solid foundation for a robust climate resilience plan and a successful implementation.
Climate Resilient Boulder2022-04-28
Sacramento Confronts Flood and Drought Risks2021-09-07
How does the environment impact our homes2021-09-12
Climate Resilient Austin2022-04-29
Here Comes the Rain Again2022-09-01
Climate Zones and Resilience2022-09-22
The Black and White Beach House2021-12-02
eampact blogs, articles, service and product references are not intended for design, planning, purchasing and construction of homes. eampact is not an architect, engineer, contractor or product manufacturer, and does not practice or provide products, design or construction services. eampact blogs, articles, services and product references are for informational purposes only and are not intended for design, planning, purchasing and construction of homes, nor are they a substitute for consulting with professionals / professional advice.
eampact has not tested any of the products listed or mentioned in our blogs, nor do we recommend using them in your planned project/s. The products mentioned in our blogs and / or directory are a starting point for home developers and owners to get inspired by manufacturers that seem to design for resilience and go the extra mile to certify or test their products. However, it is your sole responsibility along with your service providers, consultants and hired professionals (architects, designers, contractors, engineers, realtor/developer) to evaluate and choose products for your projects.
eampact, its writers and publishers shall not be liable in the event of any consequential or incidental damages in connection with, or arising from, the use of the information contained within eampact's website, blogs, product listings, environmental data, forecasts and articles.
eampact, its writers and publishers, make no warranty of any kind, expressed or implied, with regard to the information contained in this website, blogs, product listings, environmental data, forecasts and articles.
The Content and the Marks in our Blog ("The Elements") are provided on the Site “AS IS” for your information and personal use only. Except as expressly provided in our Terms and Conditions, no part of the Site and no Content or Marks may be copied, reproduced, aggregated, republished, uploaded, posted, publicly displayed, encoded, translated, transmitted, distributed, sold, licensed, or otherwise exploited for any commercial purpose whatsoever, without our express prior written permission.
© Copyright 2022 eampact. All Rights Reserved.