All infrastructure investments and choices are not created equal. Some have the potential to reduce emissions, solve other problems, and even address the core drivers of climate change – the exponential growth in the human ecological footprint. Other investments actually exacerbate climate change or make existing social or environmental problems worse.
Sorting through the investment options is not easy for technical specialists, and certainly not for ordinary residents who might be impacted by an infrastructure decision. To make wise decisions, people need tools that help them:
- Understand what they could accomplish together. Often innovative infrastructure choices require new partnerships, between jurisdictions and across the private and public sectors.
- Grapple with the uncertainty of a changing climate. Infrastructure built today will exist through a period of changing climate extremes. People need tools to understand what that might mean for infrastructure performance.
- Discover the most effective investments. A wide array of options with different upfront and ongoing costs and different levels of effectiveness aren’t always easy to compare in an internally consistent way.
- Include all of those impacted by the decision. People need tools that, while rigorous and accurate, are also free of jargon, understandable, easy to use, and that report all of the impacts that people care about, not just those of interest to technical experts or city agencies.
- Understand the full picture. Infrastructure choices impact not only costs and performance but also the livability and quality of neighborhoods, water quality, ecosystem health, and economic opportunities. People need tools that unite all these impacts in a single clear picture.
System dynamics decision support tools are uniquely suited to meet all of these needs.
Our first Green Infrastructure Scenarios Tool (GIST) is focused on stormwater management via green infrastructure, although we believe that other types of infrastructure, including transportation, water supply, energy generation and distribution, and coastal protection would also benefit from this approach, and we are seeking partners and investors interested in these areas.
Stormwater and Green Infrastructure
Many cities in the United States are experiencing increases in extreme rainfall events which overwhelm the city’s stormwater infrastructure, resulting in flooding and sewer overflows. In response, many cities are exploring green infrastructure options that use green roofs, rain barrels, rain gardens, porous pavement, and other approaches to capture and slow the water falling on the city during a storm.
What’s the relative impact of $1 million invested in green infrastructure compared to the same investment in more grey infrastructure (pipes, tanks, and water treatment capacity)? What other benefits might green infrastructure investments provide? What will the two choices mean for ongoing municipal costs? And how might the system perform under expected future climate conditions?
These are the sort of questions our GISTs are designed to address.
Multisolving: Bringing Co-Benefits into Climate Mitigation
Read more about our efforts on multisolving, or helping communities reduce their carbon footprint while improving the local economy, public health, resilience to extreme events, and more.