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UPenn maps out climate change in support of a Green New Deal

Relief, Recovery, Reform

UPenn maps out climate change in support of a Green New Deal

Project 2100: An Atlas for a Green New Deal includes current land use patterns as well as future climate scenarios. (Courtesy The Ian L. McHarg Center for Urbanism and Ecology)

Earlier this month, The University of Pennsylvania’s Ian L. McHarg Center for Urbanism and Ecology unveiled its Project 2100: An Atlas for the New Green Deal, a collection of over 100 maps and drawings visualizing the current and future effects of climate change across the continental United States. Compiled in collaboration by professors and students at the university’s Stuart Weitzman School of Design, the atlas is meant to serve as a resource for policymakers, planners, and communities looking to take up the call of the Green New Deal. 

Project 2100 approaches the spatial implications of climate change in its broadest sense, showing a range of ecological, atmospheric, agricultural, political, economic, and social factors of American life. It expresses the effects and challenges of climate change not just in temperature values, sea-level changes, and natural disasters, but through agricultural production, income distribution, immigration and displacement patterns, conservation efforts, population growth, as well as college and university location.

Through the map, users can draw connections between these disparate elements under the current climate regime.

map of projected wind farm acreage need to power 100 million American
Project 2100: An Atlas for a Green New Deal considers several possible scenarios for lowering carbon emissions. (Courtesy The Ian L. McHarg Center for Urbanism and Ecology)

In addition to describing the country’s climate reality, it is prescriptive about the necessary steps for mitigating the effects of climate change. According to the atlas, for instance, 1,834,337 wind turbines and 26,190,30,857 solar panels would be needed to provide energy for the growing population over the next century. The researchers and contributors of the atlas do not shy away from the massive scale and aim of such a project.

“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,” reads a statement from the project team. 

Despite the dire situation the map expresses, the tone of the project remains overwhelmingly hopeful. “The reality is that we’ve never actually tried to craft a national response to these threats,” said Billy Fleming, Wilks Family Director of The McHarg Center. “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.”

He continued: “It’s in this space where the Green New Deal seems likely to land—in the massive expansion of government as a force for good in the everyday lives of most people akin to that of the New Deal, and in the marshaling of public procurement and standards to drive the private sector towards a shared set of goals. It requires that we know the destination, but not the path; it requires a bit of backcasting.”