Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Climate Change Poses Major Risks for Unprepared Cities

08.04.2011
Fast-growing urban areas most likely to feel the heat

Cities worldwide are failing to take necessary steps to protect residents from the likely impacts of climate change, even though billions of urban dwellers are vulnerable to heat waves, sea level rise and other changes associated with warming temperatures.

A new examination of urban policies by Patricia Romero Lankao at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colo., in conjunction with an international research project on cities and climate change, warns that many of the world's fast-growing urban areas, especially in developing countries, will likely suffer disproportionately from the impacts of changing climate.

Her work also concludes that most cities are failing to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that affect the atmosphere.

"Climate change is a deeply local issue and poses profound threats to the growing cities of the world," says Romero Lankao. "But too few cities are developing effective strategies to safeguard their residents."

Romero Lankao's studies appear this month in a special issue of Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability and in a synthesis article in an upcoming issue of European Planning Studies.

The research was conducted in association with the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT) and funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), NCAR's sponsor.

"Cities are major sources of greenhouse gases, yet at the same time urban populations are likely to be among those most severely affected by future climate change," says Sarah Ruth, program director in NSF's Division of Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences, which funds NCAR.

"The findings highlight ways in which city-dwellers are particularly vulnerable, and suggest policy interventions that could offer immediate and longer-term benefits."

Romero Lankao, a sociologist specializing in climate change and urban development, surveyed policies in cities worldwide while drawing on a number of recent studies of climate change and cities.

She concluded that cities are falling short in two areas: preparing for the likely impacts of climate change and cutting their own greenhouse gas emissions by reducing fossil fuel use.

With more than half the world's population living in cities, scientists are increasingly focusing on the potential impacts of climate change on these areas.

The locations and dense construction patterns of cities often place their populations at greater risk for natural disasters, including those expected to worsen with climate change.

Potential threats associated with climate include storm surges that can inundate coastal areas and prolonged hot weather that can heat heavily paved cities more than surrounding areas.

The impacts of such natural events can be magnified in an urban environment.

For example, a prolonged heat wave can exacerbate existing levels of air pollution, causing widespread health problems.

Poorer neighborhoods that may lack basic facilities such as reliable sanitation, drinking water or a dependable network of roads, are especially vulnerable to natural disasters.

Moreover, populations are increasing most quickly in small- and medium-sized urban areas, which often lack the services and infrastructure to manage the rapid influx, according to Romero Lankao.

The number of urban residents worldwide has quadrupled since 1950, and cities are continuing to grow rapidly, especially in developing nations.

Romero Lankao cites projections that, by 2020, there will be more than 500 urban areas with 1 million or more residents.

Many residents in poorer countries live in substandard housing without access to reliable drinking water, roads and basic services. Neighborhoods sometimes spring up on steep hillsides or floodplains, leaving them vulnerable to storms.

But even on the heels of deadly catastrophes that scientists say will become more common with climate change, such as flash floods in Rio de Janeiro or heat waves in Europe, leaders are often failing to reinforce their defenses against natural disasters.

Romero Lankao cites three reasons for the failure to prepare: fast-growing cities are overwhelmed with other needs, city leaders are often under pressure to downplay the need for health and safety standards in order to foster economic growth and climate projections are rarely fine-scale enough to predict impacts on individual cities.

"Local authorities tend to move towards rhetoric rather than meaningful responses," Romero Lankao writes.

"What is at stake, of course, is the very existence of many human institutions, and the safety and well-being of masses of humans."

Cities are also failing in many cases to curb their own emissions of greenhouse gases, the study finds.

Instead of imposing construction standards that could reduce heating and air conditioning needs or guiding development to emphasize mass transit and reduce automobile use, many local governments are taking a hands-off approach.

"Cities can have an enormous influence on emissions by focusing on mass transit systems and energy efficient structures," Romero Lankao says. "But local leaders face pressures to build more roads and relax regulations that could reduce energy use."

The study also cites efforts in some cities to reduce emissions as part of a larger strategy to ease traffic and other problems.

For example, central London's Congestion Charging Zone is intended to encourage more use of mass transit. And several Latin American cities, such as Curitiba, Brazil, and Bogota, Colombia, are integrating new development with mass transit systems.

As cities attempt to meet the needs of their low-income residents, some strategies-including moving residents away from risk-prone areas and improving housing and services-may also improve their readiness for a changing climate.

"As hubs of development, cities have shown that they can become sources of innovation," Romero Lankao says.

"The good news is that policymakers can discover ways to improve sanitation, health and safety as they try to reduce emissions and adapt to climate impacts."

Media Contacts
Cheryl Dybas, NSF (703) 292-7734 cdybas@nsf.gov
David Hosansky, NCAR (303) 497-8611 hosansky@ucar.edu
The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2010, its budget is about $6.9 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 universities and institutions. Each year, NSF receives over 45,000 competitive requests for funding, and makes over 11,500 new funding awards. NSF also awards over $400 million in professional and service contracts yearly.

Cheryl Dybas | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.nsf.gov

More articles from Architecture and Construction:

nachricht Smart buildings through innovative membrane roofs and façades
31.08.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Organische Elektronik, Elektronenstrahl- und Plasmatechnik FEP

nachricht Concrete from wood
05.07.2017 | Schweizerischer Nationalfonds SNF

All articles from Architecture and Construction >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Nanoparticles help with malaria diagnosis – new rapid test in development

The WHO reports an estimated 429,000 malaria deaths each year. The disease mostly affects tropical and subtropical regions and in particular the African continent. The Fraunhofer Institute for Silicate Research ISC teamed up with the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology IME and the Institute of Tropical Medicine at the University of Tübingen for a new test method to detect malaria parasites in blood. The idea of the research project “NanoFRET” is to develop a highly sensitive and reliable rapid diagnostic test so that patient treatment can begin as early as possible.

Malaria is caused by parasites transmitted by mosquito bite. The most dangerous form of malaria is malaria tropica. Left untreated, it is fatal in most cases....

Im Focus: A “cosmic snake” reveals the structure of remote galaxies

The formation of stars in distant galaxies is still largely unexplored. For the first time, astron-omers at the University of Geneva have now been able to closely observe a star system six billion light-years away. In doing so, they are confirming earlier simulations made by the University of Zurich. One special effect is made possible by the multiple reflections of images that run through the cosmos like a snake.

Today, astronomers have a pretty accurate idea of how stars were formed in the recent cosmic past. But do these laws also apply to older galaxies? For around a...

Im Focus: Visual intelligence is not the same as IQ

Just because someone is smart and well-motivated doesn't mean he or she can learn the visual skills needed to excel at tasks like matching fingerprints, interpreting medical X-rays, keeping track of aircraft on radar displays or forensic face matching.

That is the implication of a new study which shows for the first time that there is a broad range of differences in people's visual ability and that these...

Im Focus: Novel Nano-CT device creates high-resolution 3D-X-rays of tiny velvet worm legs

Computer Tomography (CT) is a standard procedure in hospitals, but so far, the technology has not been suitable for imaging extremely small objects. In PNAS, a team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) describes a Nano-CT device that creates three-dimensional x-ray images at resolutions up to 100 nanometers. The first test application: Together with colleagues from the University of Kassel and Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht the researchers analyzed the locomotory system of a velvet worm.

During a CT analysis, the object under investigation is x-rayed and a detector measures the respective amount of radiation absorbed from various angles....

Im Focus: Researchers Develop Data Bus for Quantum Computer

The quantum world is fragile; error correction codes are needed to protect the information stored in a quantum object from the deteriorating effects of noise. Quantum physicists in Innsbruck have developed a protocol to pass quantum information between differently encoded building blocks of a future quantum computer, such as processors and memories. Scientists may use this protocol in the future to build a data bus for quantum computers. The researchers have published their work in the journal Nature Communications.

Future quantum computers will be able to solve problems where conventional computers fail today. We are still far away from any large-scale implementation,...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Ecology Across Borders: International conference brings together 1,500 ecologists

15.11.2017 | Event News

Road into laboratory: Users discuss biaxial fatigue-testing for car and truck wheel

15.11.2017 | Event News

#Berlin5GWeek: The right network for Industry 4.0

30.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Previous evidence of water on mars now identified as grainflows

21.11.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

NASA's James Webb Space Telescope completes final cryogenic testing

21.11.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

New catalyst controls activation of a carbon-hydrogen bond

21.11.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>