RALEIGH — Appalachian State University is one of five universities selected by AT&T to participate in the Climate Resiliency Community Challenge — a major research initiative aimed at helping communities in the southeastern United States build resilience to climate change.

“We are excited about this project and thrilled that a North Carolina institution was selected to participate,” said Trey Rabon, president of AT&T North Carolina, in a statement. “I’m confident that the work of the Appalachian team, along with that of their colleagues on other campuses, will make a lasting difference for communities across the state.”

The Appalachian researchers will focus on assessing how socioeconomic disparities that affect rural communities contribute to climate vulnerability. The climate risk estimates produced by the team will better inform adaptation strategies, identify specific regional data needs and guide decision-making on disparities between risks in inland rural areas versus urban or coastal areas.

Other institutions include the Georgia Institute of Technology, The University of Georgia, The University of Miami and the University of South Florida.

This research project aligns well with Appalachian’s commitment to creating a sustainable future, added Dr. Ece Karatan, Appalachian’s vice provost for research. “It will provide practical and immediately accessible information to predict and mitigate climate risks for rural communities in Western North Carolina. The partnership between Watauga County government and Appalachian researchers will provide impactful solutions for problems faced by the community and highlights the importance of collaboration to address challenges in our region.”

In 2019, AT&T engaged the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory to develop a Climate Change Analysis Tool that visualizes climate impacts on our network and operations at the neighborhood level 30 years into the future.  To enhance climate resilience more broadly, we made the data developed by Argonne National Laboratory publicly available here.

The Climate Resiliency Community Challenge is the second phase of the project, with five teams using this data and funding from AT&T to conduct innovative research on climate impacts and community responses in the Southeast. The participating universities will work with local government to prepare and share a report about their findings, including proposals for potential solutions for action, with the community and online.

The participating university teams were selected through an application process that included a review by a panel of non-profit climate and resiliency experts from the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES), World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and SBP (sbpusa.org).

Since 2008, Appalachian State University’s Research Institute for Environment, Energy, and Economics (RIEEE) has fostered interdisciplinary research on the environment, energy and economics, especially the areas in which these subjects intersect. The institute serves as an umbrella organization for three centers: the Appalachian Energy Center, Center for Economic Research and Policy Analysis (CERPA) and the Southern Appalachian Environmental Research and Education Center (SAEREC). The work supported by RIEEE is integrated into Appalachian’s academic programs, used to facilitate discovery among K-12 student students and teachers, and employed in the region’s economic development. Learn more at https://rieee.appstate.edu.