Preparing Cities for Climate Change
Slowly but surely, more and more city budgets are seeing allotments for green initiatives, and divesting money away from fossil fuels. For those cities who have yet to take steps with policy change, their fight must begin there, but most major urban areas have begun preparing for and even combating climate change. Given that 90% of the world’s urban areas are coastal, a lot of these initiatives involve keeping the sea levels where there are. Here are some innovative ways cities around the globe have been preparing for and actively adapting to climate change and the rise in national disasters.
As the population increases, so do the size of our cities. In many places, this can mean that what was once a suburban yard may now be a high-rise apartment. Urban sprawling brings with it its own list of issues, including the transition of farmlands to structures. For people in cities, this means less availability of fresh fruits and vegetables (even adding to the food desert crisis in some areas), and a loss of jobs for farmers. Some cities are combating these issues with vertical farming.
Vertical farming is pretty aptly named, and is the science of utilizing (or building) structures for agricultural purposes. With vertical irrigation and advancements in LED lighting that allow for crops to get the equivalent of natural light, plants and other crops can be stacked directly on top of each other, allowing for cities to take areas that used to house one field and add as many as physics will allow on top of it.
As they contain many manmade entities, urban ecosystems generally can’t exist in isolation, and require other ecosystems to help them live on (water, electricity, gasoline, etc.). Many cities, however, are taking measures to make the entirety of their urban footprint be more self-sustaining, allowing for urban ecosystems to depend less upon other ecosystems in the area. Some ironically “concrete” examples would be cities that replace depleted strip malls with parks and wetlands. When it comes to power production, cities are becoming more dependent upon natural water sources and solar energy, rather than fossil fuels.
As mentioned in the introduction, 90% of urban areas are coastal, and almost all of the 10% that aren’t, are close to a major water source. Some conservative predictions, accounting for advancements in emissions, still predict that the oceans will rise a full foot by the year 2050, and cities are already beginning to plan for it, constructing new irrigation and “empty rivers” to prepare for the literal rises in the tides.
Though there still exist many political hang-ups regarding how much certain city budgets can spend on green infrastructure, climate change resilient infrastructure is starting to be utilized more and more, including some that is ready to run on alternative energy sources whenever a city budget may allow it to do so. Climate change, as a whole, affects urban areas more severely than other areas, so making necessary changes to infrastructure now is certainly the most recommended course of action, but is unfortunately not allowed everywhere. Preparing to institute overnight changes when laws allowed are as good as it can get in some places.
Preparing a city for climate change is as stiff a task as they come, but most budgets are now allotting money to it, and more ears and eyes are opening regarding climate change. Though there are many types of engineering companies to work for, one with green initiatives would probably be the safest bet in 2020, as more city budgets are going to start having more and more “green” money sent their way.