Opinion: Spending billions of dollars now to make cities more resilient to climate change could save the U.S. trillions later

Is your city prepared for climate change? The latest National Climate Assessmentpaints a grim future if U.S. cities and states don’t take serious action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The bottom line is that the costs of climate change could reach 10% of the entire U.S. economy by the end of the century — or more than $2 trillion a year — much of it in damage to infrastructure and private property from more intense storms and flooding.

Cities can greatly reduce the damage and costs through adaptation measures such as building seawalls and reinforcing infrastructure. The problem is such projects are expensive, and finding ways to fund the cost of protecting cities against future and uncertain threats is a major financial and political challenge — especially in places where taxpayers have not yet experienced a disaster.

I’ve been part of a team that has been evaluating options for protecting Boston, one of America’s most vulnerable coastal cities. Our analysis offers a few lessons for other cities as they begin planning for tomorrow’s climate.

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