From power cuts to infrastructure failure, the impact of climate change on US cities will be huge – but many are already innovating to adapt
Pam Radtke Russell in New Orleans
Last modified on Tue 20 Aug 2019 23.19 BST
Between record heat and rain, this summer’s weather patterns have indicated, once again, that the climate is changing.
US cities, where more than 80% of the nation’s population lives, are disproportionately hit by these changes, not only because of their huge populations but because of their existing – often inadequate – infrastructure.
In urban areas, heatwaves are exacerbated by vehicles, industrial processes and the presence of heat-retaining concrete and asphalt. And it is in cities – especially in low-lying poorer areas – where record rainfall often accumulates.
“People are coming into urban areas and they cannot be stopped,” says Chandana Mitra, an associate professor of geosciences at Auburn University, who studies the impact of heat on cities. Mitra has experienced the impact of climate change in her hometown of Kolkata, India, and is now observing it in Auburn, Alabama, and nearby Birmingham. “Everyone aspires to be in an urban area and there is chaos.”
While the impacts of climate change are fundamentally local, experts say heat is one of the most concerning, especially in cities.