By 2030, more than 60% of the world’s population will live in cities. Climate change is one of the major looming concerns for urban areas worldwide, in part because of the ways in which climate change compounds vulnerabilities related to poverty, a lack of natural resources, pollution and the fast pace of urbanization itself. Therefore, one important goal that has drawn attention is a commitment to make cities and human settlements more inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.
This goal, called SDG 11, is one of the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations (UN). The UN has adopted a set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals and a transformative plan, known as the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, for realizing these goals by the end of this decade.
The UN is working closely with researchers, experts and leaders from many countries and communities around the globe to identify collaborative approaches to address the complex challenges posed by climate change, improve the resilience and sustainability of cities and human settlements, and to further the attainment of the aspirations captured in SDG 11.
In line with this endeavor, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory were featured experts on a panel discussion hosted by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the University of Chicago at the Second UN Habitat Assembly in Nairobi, Kenya.
The focus of the presentation centered on Argonne’s Community Research on Climate and Urban Science (CROCUS) Urban Integrated Field Laboratory.
CROCUS is a partnership between Argonne, several Chicago-area civic organizations and multiple universities, many of which are minority serving institutions. CROCUS is funded by DOE’s Office of Biological and Environmental Research as one of four nationwide Urban Integrated Field Laboratories. At its core, CROCUS seeks to make Chicago a model for scientific research to understand the relationships between climate change and urban systems, an effort naturally complementary to the UN’s sustainable urbanization goals.
“We are creating a blueprint and tools to be used nationally and globally when it comes to addressing climate change, particularly as it relates to community partnerships,” said Argonne Environmental Science Division Director Cristina Negri. “We’re interested in knowing what the climate impacts will be on a city like Chicago, and how studying them — with guidance from the community — will serve as a model for other cities.”
Negri highlighted the scientific mission of CROCUS, which is driven by the needs of under-resourced and historically disinvested communities. “Our approach to science is centered on empowering these communities to guide our research focus and accompany us on our scientific journey. We aim for our science to be truly pertinent and relevant to their needs.”
In response to climate change, Negri mentioned the growing consideration of what she called “nature-based solutions” in urban communities. These solutions involve the integration of green spaces within cities to mitigate some of the extreme heat or flooding caused by climate change.
“What sets our approach apart is our focus on bringing climate science to the street level,” Negri said. “Instead of solely considering regional climate models, we are exploring variations between neighborhoods, which could help us understand at a very granular level how local climate dynamics and potential interventions, such as nature-based solutions, may work in different communities.”
The CROCUS initiative at Argonne exemplifies the laboratory’s commitment to collaborative research and community engagement in addressing the complex challenges posed by climate change. By fostering partnerships and working directly with underrepresented communities, CROCUS aims to provide real insights and tools that can be ultimately leveraged both locally and globally to promote the sustainability of cities in the U.S. and worldwide.
Argonne National Laboratory seeks solutions to pressing national problems in science and technology. The nation’s first national laboratory, Argonne conducts leading-edge basic and applied scientific research in virtually every scientific discipline. Argonne researchers work closely with researchers from hundreds of companies, universities, and federal, state and municipal agencies to help them solve their specific problems, advance America’s scientific leadership and prepare the nation for a better future. With employees from more than 60 nations, Argonne is managed by UChicago Argonne, LLC for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science.
The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit https://energy.gov/science.