Climate Change: Melting Cities

By 2100 the Persian Gulf could experience temperatures exceeding 170 degrees Fahrenheit causing the area to become uninhabitable. Areas within the Persian Gulf, such as Doha, Abu Dhabi, and Bander Abbas, some of the richest cities in the world, would have to be abandoned. However, extreme heat waves are not limited to the Persian Gulf. In degrees Fahrenheit, by 2100, while not as extreme, New York City could on average experience temperatures exceeding 81.8 degrees , LA could experience 80.9 degree weather, London may experience 68.7 degree weather, and South Africa City could experience 79.9 degree weather. These temperatures may not seem dramatic, but that are roughly 8.6 degrees hotter than the current average temperature. In the year 2100, 3 out of 4 people could face deadly heatwaves. By 2080, heatwaves in Europe could kill over 150,000. The increase in temperature is a worldwide, and current issue. For example, in 2016, limited to the UK, 1,661 people died in one day because of a heatwave. While action is being taken to lower emissions, lowering emissions will not prevent the incoming weather. Without mitigating dangers of rising temperature, whole areas of land will have to be abandoned.

Heat waves, and the rise of temperature in general, is especially bad in cities because of the urban heating effect. The urban heating effect states that because of the large amount of human activity within in cities, cities become hotter than the surrounding rural areas. For example, pavement absorbs large amounts of heat then releases it at night, inhibiting surroundings from cooling down. As a result of generating, and absorbing more heat, cities are also known as urban heat islands. Currently the primary method of countering heat waves is cooling centers, public places where A/C is provided. However, cooling centers are an out of date method that offers limited assistance. Cooling centers do not address the issue of entire cities becoming over heated, but instead cool individual buildings. These centers do not help people keep cool in their own homes. For example, imagine the following scenario:

There is a 67-year-old man who lives alone, makes barely enough money to sustain himself, and cannot afford an A/C. On his day off from work, the temperature is 98 degrees Farrenheight, so he decided to head to local library, a cooling center, to cool. However, as the man makes his way to the door his knee gives out and he collapses on the floor. Unable to call anyone, the man lays on the floor until he passes out from heat exhaustion. Luckily, the man’s neighbor, who checks on him every day after work, found the man on the floor and called an ambulance.

As temperature increases, scenarios like the one suggested may not end with someone fainting, but possibly death. People should not have to worry about dying the following summer, because they cannot not afford A/C. With this said, a potential solution to keeping cities cool is the creation of green areas. Green areas create more shade, mitigate the amount of heat pavement absorbs, and act as air filters. Unlike cooling centers, green areas work on a larger scale, and address more issues. The shade created my greens areas helps people keep cool. Green areas can be used in combination with cooling pavement so cities do not absorb as much heat. Moreover, green areas address the original issue and cause of climate change by filtering out carbon emissions, thus purifying the air. To take green areas a step further, cities could be turned into forest cities. Forest cities make plants a part of the cities by covering large portions of cities in green foliage. As one giant forest, cities could combat the urban heat island effect. However, if such as action were ever enacted, low-income neighborhoods must be refurbished first. It is unjust to allow those who cannot afford A/C to struggle to survive the impending heatwaves, while those who have some protective measures to gain more protection.

The following video explains how heatwaves work and affect people:

Rural areas do not the issue of the urban heating effect, but have to combat drought due to rise in temperature, and heatwaves. In 2012 farmers in the West and Midwest, due to a drought, loss billions of dollars in crops. However, as temperature increases it may not simply be money that is lost, but vital amounts of food. A potential solution to drought is the use of “spongy” soil. “Spongy” soil could help farmers combat both drought and sever-storms because it retains more water, and reduces run off. “Spongy” soil does not have to be limited to farmers. In urban setting, “spongy” soil could help with growing, and maintaining green areas. Moreover, the soil would complement vertical farms, which already offer a more controlled environment for farming. The benefit of the soil is not that it reduces the needs of plant life, but increases the efficiency of how resources, such as water, are used.

While climate change issues, like sea level rising, and an increase in frequency of hurricanes are prevalent, they are effects of the global temperature rising. People can move in order to survive hurricanes, and flooding; however, temperature rising will affect the entire world. Temperature rising will be a continuing issue because of how long it takes carbon dissipate from the air. We may not be able to stop the rising temperature, but we can mitigate the effects.


One Response to Climate Change: Melting Cities

  1. DC October 15, 2017 at 10:53 pm #

    Climate change is the idea that the global temperature is significantly increasing due to human activity. In the past century, the average temperature has only changed by a few degrees, however even such a small change has and will lead to major consequences. To circumvent the consequences of climate change, our use of fossil fuels needs to decrease. Burning of these fuels releases greenhouse gases into our atmosphere that prevent heat from escaping, resulting in a warmer planet. The effects of climate change may not affect our generation, but it is still imperative that we act to save future generations. There have been attempts made to reduce consumption of fossil fuels such as the production of electric cars and exploration of alternative energy sources. It will be interesting to observe the initiatives made throughout our life time to combat climate change. This article addresses the vulnerability of cities due to climate change and potential alleviations.
    As discussed in the article, cities have become especially hot due to the many paved roads that absorb heat and release it at night. A way to combat this could be using cooling pavement on roads so they can’t absorb as much heat. This could have an immediate effect and help to cool down cities. Another idea proposed in the article is to plant more trees in cities to increase shade and help absorb the excessive CO2 in the air. This may be a challenge however, due to the expansive nature of our economy and businesses. Since the industrial evolution, businesses have been expanding and more buildings have been made to satisfy our economic demands. The need for more trees in cities may lead to more urban areas being industrialized as to spread out the density of buildings and pavement and not have everything concentrated in one area. This may be possible because of the ability to communicate online quickly and efficiently allowing deals and transactions to occur over large distances.
    Another point mentioned in the article was the effects climate change has on agriculture. The author offered “spongey soil” as a solution which helps to resist drought. Another possible solution could be to genetically modify our crops with CRISPER/Cas9 to enable them to grow in dryer, hotter conditions. This method of genetic modification is much safer than previous methods and negates the need for other harsh chemicals. Perhaps we can use this technology to modify trees to be able to metabolize CO2 faster. CO2 is the major greenhouse gas that traps heat in the atmosphere. If trees could be made to metabolize CO2 faster, that could be a major fix to the climate change dilemma.

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