We've seen devastating storms across the US lately, as well as floods in Australia, Brazil and Japan. Last summer, heat waves hit Europe, a place with little air conditioning. 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. Whitley talked on Coast to Coast AM last night about what is to come.
In third-world countries, especially, people are moving from the country to city in order to get jobs, and many of these fast-growing urban areas will likely suffer disproportionately from the impacts of changing climate. Most of these cities are failing to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that affect the atmosphere. Canada is a first-world country, but it isn't doing much better: Environmentalist Pamela Robinson says it one of the highest CO2 emissions per capita in the world. Other first-world high emitters include Australia and the United States.
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 (often along coasts) and dense construction patterns of cities often place their populations at greater risk for natural disasters, including those expected to worsen with climate change. Sociologist Patricia Romero Lankao, at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), sees 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. She says, "Local authorities tend to move towards rhetoric rather than meaningful responses. What is at stake, of course, is the very existence of many human institutions, and the safety and well-being of masses of humans."
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