Look Ahead – San Francisco Uses Virtual Reality to Empower Community Members to Take Climate Action

San Francisco is committed to preparing for sea-level rise using innovative approaches that protect and boost the local economy and reduce carbon emissions that drive climate disruption.

The nonprofit Climate Access developed the Look Ahead campaign in partnership with the City of San Francisco to build awareness of what is at risk, gain a better understanding of what San Franciscans think about sea-level rise and climate change to help inform a citywide sea-level rise adaptation plan, and provide opportunities for community members to get involved.

Look Ahead is also about testing the use of virtual reality as a tool to engage communities in addressing climate change, research overseen by Dr. Susanne Moser in conjunction with Antioch University. This builds on Climate Access’s Here-Now-Us project in Marin County in 2015 and Look Ahead–San Mateo in 2016 which each generated involvement from more than 3,000 community members in sea-level rise planning efforts.

The sea-level rise visualizations shown in Look Ahead are based on projections identified in the San Francisco Sea-Level Rise Action Plan. The solution visualizations illustrate possible responses to flooding from retrofitting the sea wall to restoring wetlands; as well as what locations might look like when carbon reduction goals such as increasing biking, walking, and transit trips, or using 100% renewable energy for electricity are achieved.

The Look Ahead app and virtual reality visualizations were created for Climate Access by Tactic. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Region IX provided funding for the campaign.

Data collected in the Look Ahead app will remain anonymous and confidential, and kept separate from contact information voluntarily provided. Data and responses may be analyzed, synthesized, and reported in scientific publications as part of this research.