The world is becoming increasingly urban, just as the impacts of climate change are starting to increase. City authorities need to work out where they are vulnerable and act to become more resilient to the threats they face.
The world is becoming increasingly urban. In the next 30 years, some 70 million people will move to urban areas every single year. By 2050, two-thirds of the global population will live in cities.
At the same time, cities are going to be on the front line of climate change. Some of them already are. According to a report by C40 Cities, 70% of global cities – from London to New York and Quito to Quezon – are already feeling the impacts of climate change, which, if left unchecked, will subject populations to untold risk and suffering, push already struggling services to the brink and undermine city government’s efforts to protect their citizens.
The science shows that by 2050, eight times as many city dwellers will be exposed to high temperatures and 800 million more people could be at risk from the impacts of rising seas and storm surges. That’s why an ever-growing number of metropolises are measuring their climate impacts and climate change’s impacts on them.
In 2018, over 620 cities disclosed climate and environmental data to CDP, a global environmental impact non-profit that helps investors, companies and cities assess their environmental impact and take urgent action to build a truly sustainable economy. Some 530 of those cities, representing a combined population of 517 million people, reported on climate hazards. These vary from city to city – London faces flooding risks while New York has to deal with extreme winter conditions, Quito suffers from extreme heat and forest fires and for Quezon, in the Philippines, the key risks are rainstorms and monsoons.
The key hazards that cities identify are floods (highlighted by 71% of cities), extreme heat (61%) and drought (36%). And 40% of the cities report an increased risk to already vulnerable populations, while a third say demand for public services including health rises and a quarter highlight an increase in diseases.
“From flooding to forest fires, the impacts of climate change are already being felt across the world’s biggest cities. Climate change, left unchecked, will undo many of the economic and social gains witnessed by cities in recent decades,” said Kyra Appleby, global director, Cities, States and Regions at CDP. “It is vital that cities act to build resilience and protect their citizens from the intensifying impacts of climate change. All city authorities should undertake comprehensive vulnerability assessments. Only then will cities be able to plan for the new normal brought about by our changing climate.”
Given its dominance of the reported risks it is no surprise that flood defences are the most popular climate adaptation measure, but only just over a quarter of cities are building this and just a fifth are investing in crisis management, including warning and evacuation systems.
Yet almost half of cities (46%) do not report that they are doing anything to deal with climate impacts, including 41% of those that say they are already experiencing hazards.
This is something that needs to change because those cities that have conducted vulnerability assessments are better prepared than those that haven’t – they are more than twice as likely to report long-term hazards and they are implementing almost six times as many (5.7x) adaptation actions, meaning they will be more resilient to climate risks. Even those cities that are reporting are overwhelmingly focused on short term risks (42%), with just 11% looking at long-term risks. “More cities must develop a deeper understanding of these risks and how to mitigate them in order to deliver sustainable solutions,” CDP says.
A new interactive map showing each of the cities along with their ‘CDP hazard score’, is available online. This score consists of the number of climate hazards reported multiplied by the severity of the hazards.