ESI’s Climate Resilience Index: Final Update and Future Implications

Since our most recent update on the development of ESI’s climate resilience index, we want to provide a final update before its official release outlining critical changes made during development and discussion of the index’s potential for future use. In addition, recognizing the limitations of the index will be vital for interpreting results and discerning their implications.

The climate resilience index offers a tool for cities to gauge and enhance their readiness for climate challenges. The index methodology, designed for replicability, blends quantitative and qualitative metrics, ensuring a thorough evaluation of diverse urban centers. The index can serve as a benchmark, allowing cities to compare their readiness, identify improvement areas, and track progress over time. The index can empower policymakers to make informed decisions, allocate resources efficiently, and foster continuous improvement. Finally, it encourages stakeholder collaboration and raises community awareness for climate change efforts.

The inception of ESI’s climate resilience index was rooted in the need to assess urban preparedness for climate-related changes. The city selection process identified nine cities varying in size and population growth, representing diverse geographies, economic situations, and environmental vulnerabilities. The varied nature of the cities included underscores the necessity to account for their unique attributes and susceptibility to climate change.

Several alterations have been made to the scoring system, such as reducing total variables from 30 to 17. These changes were made to avoid collinearity among variables within the same category. Collinearity has the potential to exacerbate the differences in scoring between cities. We have also altered the weighting of the four categories: Environment, Economic, Social, and Infrastructure. Originally, equal weighting was applied to each category. We applied greater weighting to the environmental category to account for the focus on environmental resiliency. The index now weighs the environmental category as 40 percent of the overall score, with the remaining categories weighted at 20 percent each. Another pivotal change made during the development of our index was the introduction of a qualitative variable within the environmental category to provide a more holistic view of each city’s proactive attempts to reduce the impacts of climate change.

Various issues affecting each city were examined, along with each city’s response or reaction to the event. Upon evaluating each city’s efforts, they were assigned a score of either 0 or 20. The final significant change to the index since was the overall change in the scoring system. Previously, the nine cities were ranked in relation to each other according to their performance in each metric. To better standardize and allow for the inclusion of additional cities in the future, the current iteration of the index ranks each city’s performance relative to their deviation from the national average in each metric. Examining a given city’s resilience relative to the national average allows for a more nuanced view of each city’s resilience efforts and a broader view of the national urban landscape. We have also examined improvement projects within each city aimed at building climate resilience and produced case studies. The case studies are meant to identify best practices these cities have implemented to improve their infrastructure, community, and processes against climate change.

In interpreting the index results, it’s crucial to acknowledge its limitations. We faced challenges during development, including collinearity and data unavailability, leading to the use of proxy variables. Moreover, city budget data lacks uniform standardization due to differing spending category definitions. Also, each city operates within its unique environmental and geographical context, necessitating careful consideration of context when analyzing and drawing conclusions from the results.

The complete climate resilience index report will be released soon. Beyond its immediate release, this index holds vast potential for ongoing use, guiding cities nationwide in enhancing their resilience strategies against climate challenges. By providing a standardized framework for assessment and fostering continual improvement, it promises to be a catalyst for informed decision-making and collaborative action, paving the way for a more sustainable and resilient urban future.

 

Patrick Darcy, Fellow

Patrick Darcy is a fellow supporting ESI’s thought leadership initiative, ESI Center for the Future of Cities. He is a recent graduate from Temple University where he graduated with a BBA in Economics, and is currently working towards his MS in Financial Analysis with an anticipated graduation date of 2024. 

 

Samriddhi Khare, Fellow

Samriddhi Khare is a fellow supporting ESI’s thought leadership initiative, ESI Center for the Future of Cities. She currently attends the University of Pennsylvania and will be graduating in 2024. Samriddhi will receive her Master’s in City Planning with concentrations in smart cities and technology. 

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