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The McHarg Center Releases Atlas for the Green New Deal

A new collection of maps and datascapes captures the spatial consequences of climate change in support of a coordinated national response.

Philadelphia, PA—The University of Pennsylvania’s Ian L. McHarg Center for Urbanism and Ecology today launched The 2100 Project. The first installment of this initiative, published as an Atlas for the Green New Deal, consists of more than 100 visualizations illustrating the projected spatial impacts of climate change and population growth in the United States over the rest of the century. The Atlas was conceived as a platform for legislators, planners, designers, and community residents to understand the stakes of the climate crisis where they live and, hopefully, to develop alternative visions for a future built by the Green New Deal.

The 2100 Project addresses the intersecting issues of human-induced climate change impacts, a projected U.S. population growth of 100 million people over the next century, and the need for aggressive efforts to reduce the economy’s reliance on extraction, production, and consumption. The Atlas draws on the work of scientists, geographers, economists, historians, and others to produce a public collection of visuals of America’s future all in one place, synthesized and curated as a part of the McHarg Center’s ongoing Green New Deal research.

Key takeaways from the Atlas for the Green New Deal:

  • The most conservative estimates project that at least 100 million more people will migrate to the United States and that 13 million people already living here will be displaced by sea level rise this century. Those numbers fail to include the tens of millions who will be displaced by heat, drought, agriculture and ecosystem collapse, and the other effects of climate change.
  • Building enough infill and new development to accommodate those 113 million people would require building the equivalent of 12 New Yorks (one every 3.5 years), 36 Chicagos (one every 14 months), or 68 Phoenixes (one every 7 months).
  • Powering this future United States on wind energy alone would require enough generation, transmission, and storage infrastructure to consume 31% of the nation’s entire landmass. Doing so with solar would require consuming 7.6% of the nation’s landmass. Along with the population growth and food systems demands for land, how and where these future Americans live will determine how well we cope with a future defined by climate change.

The 2100 Project also challenges the myth that the public sector cannot undertake ambitious projects. With bold, national-scale action possible in the near future, the Atlas collates essential information that can support action at the national level. “The Green New Deal and climate change are not going away,” says Billy Fleming (@joobilly), Wilks Family Director of The McHarg Center. “If we’re going to address the climate crisis on the scale at which it is occurring, we have to scale up the ability of the government to take on the challenge.”

Much like the Apollo program set a goal of sending a man to the moon before it was clear what technology it would take to succeed, so too can the Green New Deal set ambitious goals that can be met by mobilizing the public sector. Fleming adds that it is easy to look at the scale of the challenge posed by climate change and the goals of the Green New Deal, like achieving carbon neutrality by 2050, and believe that they are impossible. But, he adds, “The reality is that we’ve never actually tried to craft a national response to these threats. We won’t know what we’re capable of achieving until, as the Green New Deal demands, we mobilize our communities, resources, and government around climate action.”

The mission of The Ian L. McHarg Center for Urbanism and Ecology is to build on the University of Pennsylvania Stuart Weitzman School of Design’s position as a global leader in urban ecological design by bringing environmental and social scientists together with planners, designers, policy-makers, and communities to develop practical, innovative ways of improving the quality of life in the places most vulnerable to the effects of climate change.


Image: Hurricane Katrina victims have filed for assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) from every state. The map shows the distribution and number of the 1.36 million individual assis­tance applications as of Sept. 23, 2005.