Why Climate Change Could be Especially Bad for Cities

Each year, numerous people are drawn to cities for better professional and social opportunities. City life can be exciting, but it can also have it’s drawbacks, such as a high cost of living. In the future, those living in major metropolitan areas might also have to contend with the costs of oppressive heat.

Urban Islands

The concrete and asphalt so common in big cities could leave them more susceptible to the effects of climate change. Such was the conclusion of research published in a recent issue of the journal Nature Climate Change. The authors of this report certainly put in a good amount of effort into their work; data from nearly 1,700 cities was factored into their work, spanning from 1950 through 2015.

Asphalt and concrete both absorb and trap heat, a phenomenon the study authors refer to as the “urban heat island” effect. Furthermore, the world’s cities have no shortage of heat-producing sources, such as air conditioners and automobiles.

Because of these circumstances, the researchers contend that urban areas will bear the brunt of climate change. By
the year 2100, cities around the globe could be faced with a temperature increase of 8%, or over 14 degrees Fahrenheit.

Breaking the Bank

With the higher temperatures could come a reduction in economic productivity. For cities experiencing a relatively moderate temperature boost, the annual heat- induced GDP loss may range between 1.4% and 1.7%. This figure might rise to as high as 5.6% by 2100. Some cities could suffer yearly GDP losses exceeding 10 %. The news wasn’t all bad, the authors noted that proactive measures, including the implementation of “cool” pavement and roofs, notably impacted urban economies. Researcher Richard Tol noted that “city-level adaptation strategies to limit local warming have important economic net benefits for almost all cities around the world.”

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