Cleveland sees clean energy as tool for climate change resiliency

The following excerpt is from an article by Kathiann M. Kowalski for the Energy News Network. To read the full article, please visit

Nicholas Rajkovich crisscrossed Cleveland on bicycle, tailed the entire time by what looked like a sideways glider rigged over his back wheel.

As the urban planner pedaled, the contraption at his back recorded second-by-second readings of temperatures, humidity, radiation and other variables.

The DIY mobile weather station helped Rajkovich, an assistant professor of architecture at the University at Buffalo, identify multiple urban heat islands — literal hot spots within the city where temperatures can be several degrees warmer than surrounding areas.

Rajkovich’s work is helping to inform a growing discussion in Cleveland about how the city and county can make sure its people and infrastructure are prepared for climate change.

Mitigation efforts can still avoid some of the worst impacts of climate change. But with the reality that some impacts are now inevitable, the focus on resilience is growing here and elsewhere.

Cleveland’s risks might not seem as dramatic as the sea level rise that threatens New York or the wildfires that will become more common out West, but the challenges will be nonetheless very real, said Matt Gray, Chief of Sustainability for the City of Cleveland.

Northeast Ohio can expect more severe storms, heat waves, and flooding. It’ll see more days with poor air quality, and along with that more asthma attacks and other health problems. Hotter summers will strain the electric grid more often. The region’s climate will become “wetter, warmer and weirder,” Gray said.

Neighborhoods like the ones flagged as heat islands by Rajkovich could face greater risks if the grid isn’t equipped to handle increasing demands. Urban planners view weatherization, tree planting and distributed generation as tools to make a community more resilient.

“Climate change isn’t going to go away, and we need to address this,” said Director Mike Foley at Cuyahoga County’s Department of Sustainability.

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