Mitigation v. Adaptation, How Transportation and Land-Use Planning can Combat Climate Change

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MTI analyzes 23 California city climate plans to determine whether integrated transportation and land-use strategies are being incorporated
March 12, 2020
San José, CA

Recent extreme weather events in California—wildfires, droughts, and flooding—make abundantly clear the need to plan effective responses to both the causes and consequences of climate change. New Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI) research, Harmonizing Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation in Transportation and Land-Use Planning in California Cities, analyzes the climate plans for 23 California cities in addition to interviewing 25 local, regional, and state officials working on climate planning. 

Identifying transportation and land-use (TLU) strategies that both mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and successfully prepare communities to be less severely impacted by climate change remains a challenge. The study assessed existing city plans and identifies the potential pitfalls between mitigation and adaptation. Then, it establishes methods the state can implement to help cities effectively incorporate integrated TLU actions.

By exploring climate action planning at the municipal level in California, report author Dr. Serena Alexander and her team determined:

  1. The majority of city planning documents emphasize mitigation rather than adaptive efforts;
  2. Some cities are incorporating integrated actions, but this is often not done explicitly, not done within the same policy, or within the transportation sector;
  3. Most cities addressed climate mitigation and adaptation in separate efforts, potentially reducing synergies between the two types of action and even creating conflicts.

Dr. Alexander encourages cities to “proactively link the content of climate mitigation and adaptation plans, allowing for cross-collaboration between the various departments in charge of developing, implementing, and monitoring climate-related plans.” She goes on to recommend that state governments provide funding specifically for planning and implementing integrated actions, offer technical support to help program and project adaption, and fund research in the area of integrated actions.


At the Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI) at San Jose State University (SJSU) our mission is to increase mobility for all by improving the safety, efficiency, accessibility, and convenience of our nation's’ transportation system. Through research, education, workforce development and technology transfer, we help create a connected world. MTI was founded in 1991 and is funded through the US Departments of Transportation and Homeland Security, the California Department of Transportation, and public and private grants. MTI is affiliated with SJSU’s Lucas College and Graduate School of Business.


Dr. Serena E. Alexander is an Assistant Professor of Urban and Regional Planning at San José State University. Dr. Asha Weinstein Agrawal is a Professor of Urban and Regional Planning at San José State University. Ashley M. Hooper is a Doctoral Candidate in Urban and Environmental Planning and Policy at the University of California, Irvine. Dr. Michael R. Boswell is a Professor of City and Regional Planning at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo.



Irma Garcia, MTI Communications & Workforce Development Coordinator



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