The 10 Most Resilient Cities In The World

Toronto tops this list of the world's most resilient cities.

2: Vancouver

3: Calgary

4: Chicago

5: Pittsburgh.

6: Stockholm.

7: Boston.

8: Zurich.

9: Washington, D.C.

10: Atlanta.

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The 10 Most Resilient Cities In The World

Canada, with the top three cities on the list, is apparently a pretty resilient place to live.

If humanity is going to survive and thrive in the future, it's going to need strong cities. Two-thirds of people are set to live in urban areas by 2050 (according to U.N. estimates), putting great pressure on city planners to cope.

How well are they doing so far? A new report scores 50 cities both for their "vulnerability" (for example, to climate change) and their "adaptive capacity" (their ability to react), producing an overall "resilience" ranking. And, in fact, the news for North America isn't bad—as long as you believe the rankings. The top three cities are Canadian (Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary), and six of the top 10 are from the U.S. (led by Chicago and Pittsburgh in fourth and fifth places, respectively).

The rankings are based on five categories of vulnerability (climate, environment, resources, infrastructure, and community) and five categories of adaptability (governance, institutions, technical capacity, planning systems, and funding structures). "Resources," for example, means a city's access to energy, food, and water. "Funding structures" covers the ability to borrow and tap into national and international money.

Generally, North America scores highly on the adaptive side. "The strong U.S. ranking is due to adaptive capacity, where resources, public accountability of elected officials, and the technology of the U.S. are dominating factors," the report says. "This suggests that U.S. cities will continue to see a pattern of effective public intervention, but often only after a major shock has occurred."

The middle-ranking cities are mostly European. London is 18th, Paris is 23rd, and Madrid 31st, for instance. The most worrying group is the bottom-ranked cities, which are all from the emerging world: places like Dhaka, Bangladesh (50th), Jakarta, Indonesia (49th), and Mumbai (46th). These are cities with huge and growing populations, which are both vulnerable and relatively unadaptive.

Click to enlarge the full list.

"So far, blistering economic growth has not fed through into the quality and long-term resilience of these cities," the report, which was developed by a U.K. real estate group, says. "The least resilient cities are the ones facing the greatest pressure to grow. High rates of population growth, while beneficial to production and culture in the long term, are likely to challenge improved adaptive capacity in the short term."

Of course, the U.S.'s high scoring isn't reason for complacency. Hurricane Sandy showed how a mid-severity hurricane could hobble a great city, despite its wealth. New York is 31st most vulnerable (scoring highly for climate) but number one for adaptability, making it 14th most resilient overall. In theory, that should leave it well placed to cope with future shocks, but we'll have to see if it really is prepared when the next major storm comes.

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  • I was born and have lived and worked in Toronto for most of my 59 years. I'm not surprised in the least that it rates at the top of this, and many other surveys. I know many people how have chosen to move here, and sing its praises. All and all, it's a great place to call home, and to make your base, no question. It's not perfect by any means, but strives all the same to understand and address it's challenges. The recent rough patch of local mayoral incompetence was a wakeup call to many, to not take for granted the reasons for our cities broad success, and quality of life. All of this, it should be noted, with disengaged, uncooperative, negligent, incompetent, and more often than not, veiled hostility from "upper" levels of government. We are truly a resilient city, to so consistently prosper, in spite of this. One can only imagine what we could be if the opposite were true.

  • Sherry Bernard

    As Edmonton is the Capital of Alberta and always has been I believe that they are the ones that should be in this, not Calgary, Calgary is a city in Alberta but Is Not the Capital of Alberta, I am Assuming that this study was done on. Capital City's ?

    Please get your Facts straight thank you

  • Chris Hodgson

    Its not like it one of the cleanest and most liveable cities in the world or anything... oh wait. Well it couldn't possibly be an economic hub..that too eh. How about the home to the most company head offices in Canada? That too. Crazy world.

  • Prateek Sood

    how are indian cities non resilient? Look at our local transport! Three people in space for one!we still coexist! and more terrorist attacks than on Canadian cities! we do bounce back dont we? On all 5 parameters of vulnerability and adaptability, developing countries deal with a lot more than any average developed country. Although, as someone who has lived in Boston, I feel it should be ranked higher!

  • Vancouver is both in a somewhat seismically-active region and is on the coast, even if generally higher in elevation that a lot of New York. So, the questions about methodology and transparency are very applicable.

    Also, seeing coastal Boston and Washington so high on the list suggests this study was probably not done by the climate change alarmists expecting global sea level to rise twenty feet or so in the next few decades.

  • Rian Croteau

    Given the population of NYC and the fact that its pretty much at, if not below, sea level I wouldn't rank it as resilient at all.

  • Scott Batson

    The article doesn't explain how the cities were chosen, probably because neither does the report. So, the greatest criticism of the report is that the methodology is not transparent, therefore, the results cannot be confirmed as valid. Many of the west coast US cities will not do well in the event of an 8.0 or larger magnitude earthquake, which is expected in the next 50 years. Imagine Seattle or Los Angeles without power for 3 months.

  • Calgary #3 really... was this study done recently? 2013 Alberta floods Total damage estimates exceeded C$5 billion and in terms of insurable damages, is the costliest disaster in Canadian history at $1.7 billion. Receding waters gave way to a mammoth cleanup of affected areas, aided by a spontaneous volunteer campaign in which many home owners were assisted by complete strangers.