Timon McPhearson

Timon McPhearson
The New School · Urban Systems Lab

Ph.D.

About

188
Publications
138,075
Reads
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10,262
Citations
Citations since 2016
144 Research Items
9154 Citations
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Introduction
Timon McPhearson is Director of the Urban Systems Lab and Professor of Urban Ecology at The New School in New York City. He is a Research Fellow at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies and Stockholm Resilience Centre at Stockholm University, and a Research Affiliate of the Beijer Institute of Ecological Economics at The Swedish Royal Academy of Sciences. He is an IPCC WGII Lead Author, member of the World Economic Forum Global Commission on BiodiverCities, and NYC Panel on Climate Change.
Additional affiliations
July 2017 - present
Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies
Position
  • Senior Researcher
January 2017 - present
Stockholm Resilience Centre
Position
  • Fellow
July 2008 - June 2009
Columbia University
Position
  • Professor
Education
September 1997 - May 2004
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
Field of study
  • Ecology, Evolution, and Natural Resources
September 1993 - May 1997
Taylor University
Field of study
  • Environmental Biology

Publications

Publications (188)
Article
Urban ecology is a field encompassing multiple disciplines and practical applications and has grown rapidly. However, the field is heterogeneous as a global inquiry with multiple theoretical and conceptual frameworks, variable research approaches, and a lack of coordination among multiple schools of thought and research foci. Here, we present an in...
Article
We have entered the urban century and addressing a broad suite of sustainability challenges in urban areas is increasingly key for our chances to transform the entire planet towards sustainability. For example, cities are responsible for 70% of global greenhouse gas emissions and, at the same time, 90% of urban areas are situated on coastlines, mak...
Article
Full-text available
The scale, pace, and intensity of human activity on the planet demands radical departures from the status quo to remain within planetary boundaries and achieve sustainability. The steering arms of society including embedded financial, legal, political, and governance systems must be radically realigned and recognize the connectivity among social, e...
Book
Full-text available
This open access book addresses the way in which urban and urbanizing regions profoundly impact and are impacted by climate change. The editors and authors show why cities must wage simultaneous battles to curb global climate change trends while adapting and transforming to address local climate impacts. This book addresses how cities develop antic...
Article
Full-text available
Cities across the Unites States have embraced green infrastructure (GI) in official planning efforts. The plans conceptualize GI as providing multiple functions and benefits for urban residents, and form part of complex responses to intersectional urban challenges of social injustice and inequity, climate change, aging and expensive infrastructure,...
Article
Full-text available
Maximizing the functional performance of urban green infrastructure is important to deliver critical ecosystem services that support human well-being. However, urban ecosystems are impacted by social and ecological filters that affect biodiversity, shaping how species’ traits are functionally expressed, thus affecting ecosystem services supply. Our...
Article
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Scholarship on Nature-based Solutions (NbS) primarily focuses on the potential for NbS to deliver multiple benefits to humans and biodiversity from networked natural systems. These approaches, if enacted without sensitivity to local contexts and histories, can deepen long standing injustices resulting from the destruction of complex self-organizing...
Article
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What the Latest Science on Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability means for Cities and Urban Areas, offers a concise and accessible urban-focused distillation of the IPCC Working Group II Report. The scale, reach, and complexity of contemporary urbanisation can compound the risks from climate change for cities. Cities and urban areas have a critica...
Article
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Cities are at the forefront of climate change action and planning for futures that are concomitantly more resilient and equitable, making local goals imperative for global sustainability. Under the multiple challenges of changing climatic, ecological and socio-economic conditions, cities need the means to meet these goals. We know cities are and wi...
Article
This paper presents a typology of ecological injustice hotspots for targeted design of nature-based solutions to guide planning and designing of just cities. The typology demonstrates how the needs and capabilities of nonhuman nature can be embedded within transitions to multi- and interspecies relational futures that regenerate and protect urban s...
Article
Full-text available
The understanding of urban social-ecological systems requires integrated and interdisciplinary methods. This paper explores differences in the accessibility of urban green spaces (UGS) based on urban morphology. In contrast to other comparative analyses that followed simplified quantification of UGS provision and/or omitted the impact of morphologi...
Article
Full-text available
Green roofs provide multiple benefits including reducing the urban heat island effect, absorbing stormwater and air pollution, and serving as habitat for wildlife. However, many cities have not taken advantage of green roofs as a nature-based solution. In New York City (NYC), approximately 20% of the landscape is covered by buildings, thus rooftops...
Chapter
Full-text available
This Cross-Working Group Box on Cities and Climate Change responds to the critical role of urbanisation as a megatrend impacting climate adaptation and mitigation. Issues associated with cities and urbanisation are covered in substantial depth within all three Working Groups (including WGI Box TS.14, WGII Chapter 6 ‘Cities, settlements and key infr...
Chapter
Full-text available
Chapter 2, building on prior assessments, provides a global assessment of the observed impacts and projected risks of climate change to terrestrial and freshwater ecosystems, including their component species and the services they provide to people. Where possible, differences among regions, taxonomic groups and ecosystem types are presented. Adapt...
Chapter
Full-text available
Nature-based solutions provide adaptation and mitigation benefits for climate change as well as contributing to other sustainable development goals (high confidence). Effective nature-based climate change mitigation stems from inclusive decision-making and adaptive management pathways that deliver climate-resilient systems serving multiple sustaina...
Article
Full-text available
Urbanization and competing water demand, as well as rising temperatures and changing weather patterns, are manifesting as gradual processes that increasingly challenge urban water supply security. Cities are also threatened by acute risks arising at the intersection of aging infrastructure, entrenched institutions, and the increasing occurrence of...
Article
Full-text available
As rates of urbanization and climatic change soar, decision-makers are increasingly challenged to provide innovative solutions that simultaneously address climate-change impacts and risks and inclusively ensure quality of life for urban residents. Cities have turned to nature-based solutions to help address these challenges. Nature-based solutions,...
Article
Full-text available
Smart city development is expanding rapidly globally and is often argued to improve urban sustainability. However, these smart developments are often technology-centred approaches that can miss critical interactions between social and ecological components of urban systems, limiting their real impact. We draw on the social-ecological-technological...
Article
Afforestation projects are a growing focus of urban restoration efforts to rehabilitate degraded landscapes and develop new forests. Urban forests provide myriad valuable ecosystem services essential for urban sustainability and resilience. These essential services are supported by natural soil microbial processes that transform organic matter to c...
Article
Full-text available
In response to interdependent challenges, city planners are increasingly adopting “green infrastructure” (GI). Reviewing 122 plans from 20 US cities, we identify what types of city plans address and define GI, including the concepts associated with GI, as well as the types, functions, and benefits of GI. The most common plans that feature GI, some...
Article
New York City, the most populated urban center in the United States, is exposed to a variety of natural hazards. These range from extratropical storms and coastal flooding to extreme heat and cold temperatures, and have been shown to unevenly impact the various vulnerable groups in the city. As the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March 2020 and the city b...
Article
Full-text available
Sustainability transformations call forth new forms and systems of knowledge across society. However, few tools and processes exist for promoting dialogue among different interests and normative stances in knowledge co-creation. In this article, we build on the notion of thought collectives to argue that understanding and moderating normative tensi...
Article
Cities are home to around half of the global population but face intensified and unevenly distributed heat stresses. Trees are utilized to adapt to urban heat; however, most tree planting is prioritized by either biophysical or social metrics, rather than an integration of the two. It therefore remains unclear how to maximize ecological and social...
Article
Full-text available
Present and future urbanization together with climate change and other uncertainties make urban quality of life a critical issue, and one that will need constant attention and deliberation. Across cities and contexts, urban ecosystems in the form of green and blue infrastructure, have the potential to contribute to human well-being as well as suppo...
Article
Full-text available
Urban nature—such as greenness and parks—can alleviate distress and provide space for safe recreation during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, nature is often less available in low-income populations and communities of colour—the same communities hardest hit by COVID-19. In analyses of two datasets, we quantified inequity in greenness and park proxim...
Article
Full-text available
Recent years have seen a massive development of geospatial sensing systems informing the use of space. However, rarely do these sensing systems inform transformation towards urban sustainability. Drawing on four global urban case examples, we conceptualize how passive and active sensing systems should be harnessed to secure an inclusive, sustainabl...
Article
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Examining justice in cities requires using analytical approaches that can unpack their complex nature and reveal the many interacting dimensions that affect justice patterns and processes. Although justice in cities has been examined extensively, it has primarily focused on social and environmental dimensions. However, justice is multi-dimensional,...
Article
Full-text available
Natural infrastructure is a critical urban infrastructure that provides fundamental and irreplaceable services for human health, wellbeing, and livelihoods. Urban development must quickly shift away from the dominant 20th century model that exacerbates hazards and risks by paving over urban ecological infrastructure. Firm commitments at COP-26 are...
Article
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Global urbanization over the last century has concentrated people, infrastructure, and economic activity in cities, pushing them to the front lines of damaging impacts of climate change and other social and economic shocks, including COVID-19. Cities are already vulnerable to such extremes and may become the most severely threatened global location...
Article
Global climate change has increased the need for cooling indoor spaces, leading to a rise in adoption of air conditioning. This adoption, while decreasing health risks, can increase energy use and pose economic burdens in low income households. Here, we estimate the burden associated with cooling, as well as potential extreme heat exposure without...
Technical Report
Full-text available
This Scenario Planning Guide outlines how the Urban Resilience to Extremes Sustainability Research Network (UREx SRN) supports ongoing efforts in its nine network cities in conducting participatory workshops. The Scenarios Working Group team, together with students, researchers, and collaborators across the network, have synthesized the co-produced...
Article
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Automated decision making and predictive analytics through artificial intelligence, in combination with rapid progress in technologies such as sensor technology and robotics are likely to change the way individuals, communities, governments and private actors perceive and respond to climate and ecological change. Methods based on various forms of a...
Article
There is great interest in the ability of afforestation programs to sequester carbon, improve soil health, and provide other ecological benefits to urban areas. However, the capacity of urban soils to support successful afforestation and sequester carbon is poorly understood. This study quantified soil carbon in a series of experimental restoration...
Article
Urban green spaces (UGS) provide health benefits to city dwellers, which may be even more important during times of crisis such as the COVID-19 pandemic. However, lack of access to UGS or important UGS features, in addition to concerns about UGS safety or maintenance, could prevent people from receiving these benefits. We designed an online survey...
Article
Full-text available
Learning lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic opens an opportunity for enhanced research and action on inclusive urban resilience to climate change. Lessons and their implications are used to describe a climate resilience research renewal agenda. Three key lessons are identified. The first lesson is generic, that climate change risk coexists and inte...
Article
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Spatial multi-criteria decision analysis (MCDA) is increasingly being used to inform urban green infrastructure planning. We explore the use of modern cloud computing technologies (Google Earth Engine) to facilitate public access to spatial MCDA of ecosystem services from green infrastructure. Using the spatial prioritization of green roof retrofit...
Article
Full-text available
Record climate extremes are reducing urban liveability, compounding inequality, and threatening infrastructure. Adaptation measures that integrate technological, nature-based, and social solutions can provide multiple co-benefits to address complex socioecological issues in cities while increasing resilience to potential impacts. However, there rem...
Article
Full-text available
Green infrastructure (GI) has become a panacea for cities working to enhance sustainability and resilience. While the rationale for GI primarily focuses on its multifunctionality (e.g. delivering multiple ecosystem services to local communities), uncertainties remain around how, for whom, and to what extent GI delivers these services. Additionally,...
Article
Full-text available
Livability, resilience, and justice in cities are challenged by climate change and the historical legacies that together create disproportionate impacts on human communities. Urban green infrastructure has emerged as an important tool for climate change adaptation and resilience given their capacity to provide ecosystem services such as local tempe...
Article
Full-text available
Urban green and blue space interventions may bring about unintended consequences, involving trade-offs between the different land uses, and indeed, between the needs of different urban inhabitants, land users, and owners. Such trade-offs include choices between green/blue and non-green/blue projects, between broader land sparing vs. land sharing pa...
Article
In May 2020, the New York City (NYC) Mayor’s Office of Climate Resiliency (MOCR) began convening bi-weekly discussions, called the Rapid Research and Assessment (RRA) Series, between City staff and external experts in science, policy, design, engineering, communications, and planning. The goal was to rapidly develop authoritative, actionable inform...
Article
Full-text available
We examine the uneven social and spatial distributions of COVID-19 and their relationships with indicators of social vulnerability in the U.S. epicenter, New York City (NYC). As of July 17th, 2020, NYC, despite having only 2.5% of the U.S. population, has ∼6% of all confirmed cases, and ∼16% of all deaths, making it a key learning ground for the so...
Chapter
Full-text available
We describe the rationale and framework for developing scenarios of positive urban futures. The scenario framework is conducted in participatory workshop settings and composed of three distinct scenario approaches that are used to (1) explore potential outcomes of existing planning goals (strategic scenarios), (2) articulate visions that address pr...
Chapter
Full-text available
A fundamental systems approach is essential to advancing our understanding of how to address critical challenges caused by the intersection of urbanization and climate change. The social–ecological–technological systems (SETS) conceptual framework brings forward a systems perspective that considers the reality of cities as complex systems and provi...
Chapter
Full-text available
Resilient urban futures provides a social–ecological–technological systems (SETS) perspective on promoting and understanding resilience. This chapter introduces the concepts, research, and practice of urban resilience from the Urban Resilience to Extremes Sustainability Research Network (UREx SRN). It describes conceptual and methodological approac...
Chapter
Full-text available
Cities are complex systems where social, ecological, and technological processes are deeply coupled. This coupling complicates urban planning and land use development, as changing one facet of the urban fabric will likely impact the others. As cities grapple with climate change, there is a growing need to envision urban futures that not only addres...
Chapter
Full-text available
The Urban Systems Lab (USL) Dataviz Platform is an interactive web application to visualize Social, Ecological, and Technological Systems (SETS). This platform is being used to encourage participatory processes, produce new knowledge, and facilitate collaborative analysis within nine Urban Resilience to Weather-related Extremes (UREx) Sustainabilit...
Article
Full-text available
Paper available online here: https://www.ecologyandsociety.org/vol26/iss2/art35/ Understanding opportunities as well as constraints for people to benefit from and take care of urban nature is an important step toward more sustainable cities. In order to explore, engage, and enable strategies to improve urban quality of life, we combine a social-ec...
Article
Full-text available
Urban social–ecological–technological systems (SETS) are dynamic and respond to climate pressures. Change involves alterations to land and resource management, social organization, infrastructure, and design. Research often focuses on how climate change impacts urban SETS or on the characteristics of urban SETS that promote climate resilience. Yet...
Article
In this perspective, we present how three initial landmark papers on urban sustainability research contributed to the larger sustainability science scholarship and paved the way for the continued development of urban sustainability research. Based on this, we propose three conceptual innovation pathways to trace the progression of urban sustainabil...
Article
Full-text available
To ensure that cities and urban ecosystems support human wellbeing and overall quality of life we need conceptual frameworks that can connect different scientific disciplines as well as research and practice. In this perspective, we explore the potential of a traits framework for understanding social-ecological patterns, dynamics, interactions, and...
Article
Full-text available
Key insights on needs in urban regional governance - Global urbanization (the increasing concentration in urban settlements of the increasing world population), is a driver and accelerator of shifts in diversity, new cross-scale interactions, decoupling from ecological processes, increasing risk and exposure to shocks. Responding to the challenges...
Article
Full-text available
Cellular automata (CA) models have increasingly been used to simulate land use/cover changes (LUCC). Metaheuristic optimization algorithms such as particle swarm optimization (PSO) and genetic algorithm (GA) have been recently introduced into CA frameworks to generate more accurate simulations. Although Markov Chain Monte Carlo (MCMC) is simpler th...
Preprint
Full-text available
Urban nature can alleviate distress and provide space for safe recreation during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, nature is often less available in low-income and communities of color—the same communities hardest hit by COVID-19. We quantified nature inequality across all urbanized areas in the US and linked nature access to COVID-19 case rates for...
Article
Full-text available
As urban populations continue to grow through the 21 st century, more people are projected to be at risk of exposure to climate change-induced extreme events. To investigate the complexity of urban floods, this study applied an interlinked social-ecological-technological systems (SETS) vulnerability framework by developing an urban flood vulnerabil...
Article
Full-text available
There are urgent calls for developing a comprehensive and globally-relevant urban science that emphasizes convergence among disciplines and practice. Advancing theory and conceptual frameworks is critical to developing a new urban systems science. We synthesize five frameworks that address features identified in calls for global urban science. The...
Presentation
Full-text available
The nature of urban development in the last century overlaps with an increase in the magnitude and frequency of heatwaves, flooding, and other weather-related extreme events, which has led to increased social, economic, and infrastructure impacts from such events. Improving resilience to extreme events has become a shared goal that cuts across inte...
Article
Floods are important disturbances to urban socio-eco-technical systems and their meteorological drivers are projected to increase through the century due to global climate change. Urban flood models are numerical models that have the capability of representing the features of urban ecosystems and the mechanisms of flooding that impact them. They ha...
Preprint
p>We examine the uneven social and spatial distributions of COVID-19 and their relationships with indicators of social vulnerability in the U.S. epicenter, New York City (NYC). As of July 17th, 2020, NYC, despite having only 2.5% of the US population, has ~6% of all confirmed cases, and ~16% of all deaths, making it a key learning ground for the so...
Preprint
Full-text available
p>We examine the uneven social and spatial distributions of COVID-19 and their relationships with indicators of social vulnerability in the U.S. epicenter, New York City (NYC). As of July 17th, 2020, NYC, despite having only 2.5% of the US population, has ~6% of all confirmed cases, and ~16% of all deaths, making it a key learning ground for the so...
Preprint
Full-text available
We examine the uneven social and spatial distributions of COVID-19 and their relationships with indicators of social vulnerability in the U.S. epicenter, New York City (NYC). As of July 17th, 2020, NYC, despite having only 2.5% of the US population, has ~6% of all confirmed cases, and ~16% of all deaths, making it a key learning ground for the soci...