Cities have to act fast to avoid a very bleak future


Cities have to act fast to avoid a very bleak future

Report outlines dystopian world of extreme temperatures, deadly floods and dire food shortages

Claire Keeton and Tanya Farber

The name of the report says it all: The Future We Do Not want.
And in its 50-plus pages, one sees a dystopian world of extreme temperatures, deathly floods and dire shortages of food and drinkable water.
It makes the bleak landscape of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road feel not just like a distinct possibility, but a probability.“Billions of city dwellers will be at risk of heat waves, droughts, flooding, blackouts and food shortages by 2050 unless there is urgent action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” said Kevin Austin, deputy director-general of C40 Cities which launched the report on Tuesday at the world’s premier climate change conference (called Adaptation Futures 2018), on this week at the Cape Town International Convention Centre.It is one of the most comprehensive studies to date on how cities will be affected, and the harrowing stats based on solid evidence are enough to silence anyone who says climate change is a myth.
“Extreme heat waves could affect more than 1.6 billion people,” he said.Today, 350 cities experience extreme heat conditions with a three-month average temperature reaching 35%. By 2050, it will be 970 such cities – and Kimberley has been earmarked as one of those.
By then, 45% of the global urban population will be experiencing extreme summer temperatures, and that will mark a rise of 700% of such people.
Those living in poverty in cities will feel it the most, and that figure is set to rise from 26 million to 215 million by 2050.
Meantime, global water demand would have risen by 55% and in 1,000 cities around the world, while 2.5 billion people will be living in 1,600 cities where crops for food would have declined by around 10% from current levels.
Austin speaks of “undernourishment of 850 million people”.Those living in cities by the sea – which by 2050 is projected to be around 800 million people in 570 coastal cities – risk a sea level rise upwards of half a metre, resulting in coastal flooding.
In South Africa, cities at risk include Durban, Cape Town, George, East London and Port Elizabeth.
This could affect power supply to over 450 million people across the world.
But the report is not just doom and gloom. It also includes a wealth of information on urban responses that could alleviate some of this pending doom if we act quickly enough.“We urgently need bold climate action,” said Austin, adding: “We are already taking actions to deal with risks and cities are already delivering.”
He urged cities to “learn from each other”, citing some innovative case studies.
“Seoul, for example, has planted 60 million trees to reduce heat and New York City has shored up its coastal defences. Sao Paulo is providing incentives to citizens to use less water and Paris has plans to establish 30 hectares of urban agriculture,” he said.
Lima, the capital of Peru, has a poverty map of the city so that it can focus on under-serviced areas.“We need to be replicating these initiatives at as fast a pace as possible and work together to make it happen,” he said.
“We need to get people to act together and work together so that disasters don’t happen,” he added, noting that the poor and women were most affected when extreme events caused devastation.
“We must use a crisis on one place to learn lessons for other places.”
The conference is running for four days as of Monday, and has attracted over 1,200 delegates and more than 230 organisations from around 90 countries.

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