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Are smart sustainable cities the solution to climate change?
Impact, Smart Cities July 30, 2019

Extreme heat events are getting more frequent and more intense. Globally, heat kills more people than any other natural disaster. In fact, nine of the ten deadliest heat waves in human history have occurred since 2000 alone. And vulnerable people tend to live in areas where temperatures are rising the fastest. In 2017, about 157 million vulnerable people were exposed to heat waves globally. That’s 18 million more than in 2016.

Human activities contributing to climate change are making “mega” heat waves more frequent, more intense, and last longer. Increasing levels of greenhouse gases are raising temperatures globally, leading to changing weather patterns that are expected to cause more extreme events such as flooding,  heat waves, drought, and wildfires. Scientists suspect that the planet is as hot now as it’s ever been in at least the past 125,000 years.

A new report released by the Union of Concerned Scientists found that the annual number of days with heat indices the ‘feels like’ temperature that takes into account the heat and humidity levels above 100 degrees Fahrenheit is expected to double by mid-century.

This interactive map and search tool depict the rapid increases in extreme heat projected to occur in locations across the U.S., depending on what level of climate action we take to address the crisis.

The “urban heat island effect” makes cities 2-8 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than their surrounding suburbs and rural areas. At night, when our bodies need to cool down to recuperate from a hot day, the difference can be even starker, with urban centers ranging as much as 22 degrees warmer than nearby rural areas. 

Not only are cities hotter, but they are heating up at nearly twice the global average rate. Before the end of this century, two out of every three people will live in urban spaces where excess heat will play a critical role in their lives.

Larger cities have a ravenous appetite for energy, consuming two-thirds of the world’s energy and creating over 70% of global CO2 emissions. But these statistics belie the notion that cities can also be incubators for climate change solutions. 

The most ambitious and innovative actions to reduce emissions and improve quality of life are happening at the urban level. The idea that humans are the problem with respect to the climate emergency has shifted slightly to a vision of people as problem solvers

Smart, sustainable cities are the foundation for a low-carbon future and the most cost-effective solution to climate change, possibly even more so than renewable energy. Viewing cities as solutions that foster livability, sustainability, and innovation have laid a foundation for smart city innovation.

Cities encompass the largest and fastest-growing concentration of natural resource consumption and are a logical place to focus sustainability efforts in areas such as transportation, building emissions, energy efficiency, drinking water, air quality, infrastructure resiliency, and waste management.

Unfortunately, it seems more extreme heat is on the way, but the frequency and length of “mega” or extreme heat events will depend on how ambitiously we address global climate change. There is no single solution, but smart cities have the ability to help pave the way.

Learn more @ https://www.c40.org/

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