Report: Green Infrastructure in Great Lakes Will Improve Climate, Unemployment

The most populous cities and former manufacturing hubs in the Great Lakes states face serious challenges from climate, unemployment, and lower quality of life without more investment in green infrastructure, according to a new study.
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Detroit skyline with rain clouds
Wayne County is at an increased risk for flooding and other climate problems, according to “Climate Risks and Opportunities in the Great Lakes Region.” // Stock photo

The most populous cities and former manufacturing hubs in the Great Lakes states face serious challenges from climate, unemployment, and lower quality of life without more investment in green infrastructure, according to a new study.

Led by HIP Investor, a San Francisco-based sustainable investing expert, and supported by Environmental Consulting and Technology Inc., a national consulting firm based in Florida, the report is a product of a coalition called the Resilient Infrastructure Sustainable Communities.

Ann Arbor’s American Society of Adaptation Professionals is part of the Resilient Infrastructure Sustainable Communities, which is led by Environmental Consulting and Technology. Other collaborators include HIP; CDP, a New York-based climate action nonprofit; and the Center for Neighborhood Technology, a Chicago-based community expert; as well as The Delta Institute, a nonprofit in Chicago .

The report, “Climate Risks and Opportunities in the Great Lakes Region,” focuses on the importance of intervention opportunities, including flooding and other climate risks; workforce development opportunities such as the rehiring of existing and skilled workers; closing gaps in health care and wealth, especially in communities of color; and funding sources to pay for the improvements and projects.

The research focuses on the eight Great Lakes states – Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York – comprising 653 counties, with particular focus on the 216 counties within the Great Lakes Basin. The analysis integrated more than 100,000 data points of 15 factors to create a composite scoring system.

Leading candidates for critical green stormwater infrastructure investment include the Detroit metro area, specifically Wayne County. Other leading candidates include the Cleveland metro area, Milwaukee metro area, and Chicago metro area.

Smaller cities and mid-sized counties that are also prime candidates include Ingham County, Mich.; Isabella County, Mich.; Lucas County, Ohio; Lake County, Ind.; St. Joseph County, Ind.; and Erie County, Penn.

The study evaluated items such as flood risk, impervious surfaces, unemployment rates, skilled worker density, health and well-being, vulnerability index, and financing capacity, creating an overall readiness score for implementing green stormwater infrastructure.

“Communities across the Great Lakes basin are threatened by the changing climate, and threats are not affecting communities equally,” says Steve Cole, vice president of programs at the Great Lakes Protection Fund, which supported the work. “This report illustrates where vulnerable populations are and where conditions are favorable to increase community resilience by investing in green stormwater infrastructure. These investments could bring much-needed attention and new jobs to underserved communities while mitigating the environmental risks they face.”

The full report is available here.

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