Tiempo Climate Cyberlibrary
Climate Change and Cities
About the Cyberlibrary
The Tiempo Climate Cyberlibrary was developed by Mick Kelly and Sarah Granich on behalf of the Stockholm Environment Institute and the International Institute for Environment and Development, with sponsorship from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency.
While every effort is made to ensure that information on this site, and on other sites that are referenced here, is accurate, no liability for loss or damage resulting from use of this information can be accepted.
Urgent action is needed in urban centres in Africa, Asia and Latin America to adapt to climate change. Such centres house three-quarters of the world's urban population and will house most of the world's population growth in the next few decades. They include most of the cities at greatest risk from the increased intensity of storms, flooding and landslides that climate change brings.
Most greenhouse gas emissions are generated from the processes that serve wealthy urban consumers, most of whom are in high-income nations. Less carbon-intensive urban lifestyles are needed, including energy-efficient buildings, transport and production systems.
Cities in less wealthy nations have much lower emissions per person than wealthier nations, and adaptation to reduce risks from climate change impacts is more important. However, the development pathways of the nations that achieve economic success in this group and of the larger population nations will significantly affect future emissions so cannot be ignored.
Cities in poorer countries have a large and growing proportion of the world's population most at risk. Countries like India, China, Bangladesh and Vietnam have large urban populations in low coastal zones vulnerable to sea-level rise and storms. Coastal cities will also suffer from rising water tables undermining building foundations, saltwater contamination of groundwater, and damaged coastal tourism infrastructure and beaches. Many inland cities are at risk from flooding and mudslides. Glacial retreat will reduce water availability for many urban centres. Most cities will experience more heatwaves and air pollution, and warmer temperatures will extend the range of some diseases and increase risks from diarrhoeal diseases. Many city economies will suffer as agriculture in surrounding areas is affected.
Well-governed cities can reduce these risks, but in most African and Asian cities, 33 to 50 per cent of people live in illegal settlements that lack good water and sanitation provision, paved roads and storm drains. Many settlements are on risky sites such as floodplains, coastal areas or unstable hillsides. Their inhabitants have limited capacity to invest in adaptation and city governments often refuse to work with them.
Most urban governments lack the competence and capacity to act on climate change and have huge infrastructure backlogs. But there are good reasons for taking action. Much adaptation is making cities work better for low-income groups - ensuring their homes and settlements have good provision for water, sanitation and drainage and that they can get land for housing that is not on risky sites. Unfortunately, too many city policy makers see climate change as an environmental issue of little importance. And too many climate change specialists don't understand what constrains effective local adaptation.
David Satterthwaite, International Institute for Environment and Development, 3 Endsleigh Street, London WC1H 0DD. United Kingdom. Fax: +44-20-73882826. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
General Electric plans to cut solar installation costs by half
Project 90 by 2030 supports South African school children and managers reduce their carbon footprint through its Club programme
Bath & North East Somerset Council in the United Kingdom has installed smart LED carriageway lighting that automatically adjusts to light and traffic levels
The United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the American Public Gardens Association are mounting an educational exhibit at Longwood Gardens showing the link between temperature and planting zones
The energy-efficient Crowne Plaza Copenhagen Towers hotel is powered by renewable and sustainable sources, including integrated solar photovoltaics and guest-powered bicycles
El Hierro, one of the Canary Islands, plans to generate 80 per cent of its energy from renewable sources
The green roof on the Remarkables Primary School in New Zealand reduces stormwater runoff, provides insulation and doubles as an outdoor classroom
The Weather Info for All project aims to roll out up to five thousand automatic weather observation stations throughout Africa
SolSource turns its own waste heat into electricity or stores it in thermal fabrics, harnessing the sun's energy for cooking and electricity for low-income families
The Wave House uses vegetation for its architectural and environmental qualities, and especially in terms of thermal insulation
The Mbale compost-processing plant in Uganda produces cheaper fertilizer and reduces greenhouse gas emissions
At Casa Grande, Frito-Lay has reduced energy consumption by nearly a fifth since 2006 by, amongst other things, installing a heat recovery system to preheat cooking oil