Thursday, November 15, 2018

Cities and climate change

Africa's rapidly expanding cities face huge threats from climate change over the next 30 years, which could bring knock-on effects such as higher crime rates and civil unrest, risk analysts said.

Researchers at UK-based Verisk Maplecroft found 84 of the world's 100 fastest-growing cities are at "extreme risk" from the impacts of a warming planet, including 79 in Africa.

That group contains 15 of the continent's capital cities and many of its commercial hubs, including Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria's most populous city Lagos, Tanzanian business hub Dar es Salaam and Angola's capital, Luanda Fast-rising populations act as "a risk multiplier in lower-income cities with poor public infrastructure and inadequate disaster response mechanisms", with more people putting strain on limited resources, the study said.

Kinshasa, for instance, is now home to about 13 million people, but that figure is set to double by 2035. The city is exposed to shocks from extreme weather, including flooding, as well as slower climate pressures such as drought in surrounding areas, which could drive poor farmers into the city while disrupting food and water supplies, the analysis noted. It and other African cities at extreme risk are grappling with high poverty levels, expanding slums, weak governance and limited ability to adapt to climate shifts, researchers said.

 In Luanda, whose population exploded after oil-rich Angola's civil war ended in 2002, the government has built some new housing for poor slum communities, aiming to provide them with running water, sanitation and power - but it cannot meet demand, said housing minister Ana Paula Chantre Luna de Carvalho."The biggest problem we have is financial constraints," she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation on the sidelines of a conference on smart cities in Barcelona.nLuanda struggles with high heat levels, as well as water shortages, she said.

Niall Smith, an environmental analyst with Verisk Maplecroft, warned wilder weather and rising sea levels could "underpin a whole host of secondary impacts and social issues" such as poverty, violence and resource insecurity. "That is something we would foresee as getting much worse in these high and extreme risk locations," he added.

Mami Mizutori, head of the U.N. Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, said rapid, unplanned urbanisation - "where slums are being created overnight" - is increasing disaster risk in many developing-world cities. "Unless we tackle the development issue as a whole, the urbanisation that is becoming a risk driver is not going to stop," she added.

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