Iggy Bassi was featured on Sky News Daily Climate Show to discuss how Climate Intelligence can help cities build essential resilience to adapt with climate change...
Watch the segment, or read further below...
We are living in increasingly vulnerable cities. With Europe warming faster than the rest of the world, we need to quickly understand how climate change will reshape Europe's cities.
One thing that was made very clear in our recent interview with Polar Explorer Rosie Stancer on her return from the Aral Kum desert, is that the actions of one area can have a devastating impact on another. Extreme weather events hit locally, but their effects are felt globally as the impacts ripple out across economies.
Cities can only be as resilient as their most vulnerable assets. If we don’t adapt with climate change, millions of assets will simply not function. But we can’t fix what we can’t see. To make climate-informed decisions, it’s vital to understand where and how climate change intersects with each city's unique infrastructure and community.
Below we outline four key climate change impacts cities will experience across Europe and how Climate Intelligence should be at the heart of the decision making process as cities adapt and respond to those impacts:
1) Europe's cities are moving into new climate zones
Climate change is pushing cities into climate zones that their infrastructure isn’t designed for. Over the next 30 years, 75% of the world's major cities will shift into different climate regimes. London will feel like Barcelona, and Madrid will feel like Marrakesh. This has wide-ranging implications for everything from food security and disease carrying insects to workplace productivity and levels of city violence.
The pace of this shift is rapid. Cities need to know where to prioritize finance and development for adapting infrastructure to their changing climate. To distribute money and resources where they are most needed, decision-makers need access to an asset-level picture of climate risk across the whole city.
2) Population shift to cities will impact flood risk
Heavy rainfall and urban infrastructure are not a good mix. By 2050, European cities are set to house 84% of its population, a 9% increase on today’s figures. This means building more homes, roads and infrastructure with hard surfaces, making cities more vulnerable to flooding. Global climate models project an increase in heavy rainfall across northern and central Europe, making severe city flooding more likely.
Helsinki, where leading-start up event Slush is being held this month, is a case in point. With average winter temperatures increasing by 3° C, Finland is warming at twice the global rate. The combination of increasing rainfall, increasing winter melting and its coastal location, are escalating Helsinki’s already high flood risk.
City planning needs to get smart to update and build new infrastructure to cope with growing city populations and increased flood risk. Identifying at-risk-areas and vulnerable assets is key to protecting cities' private and public property, as is preventing new development in flood-prone areas without first ensuring resilience measures are in place. Without collaboration and shared Climate Intelligence, it’s very difficult to coordinate a city-wide response to flood risk.
3) Heat stress is driving a “cooling” gap
Heat stress has become a silent killer, and it’s hitting our most vulnerable populations the hardest. Long periods working outdoors puts many workers at risk of kidney disease and other negative health impacts. What’s emerging is a poverty cooling gap - where the most vulnerable populations don’t have access to cooling equipment in their homes or at work, because this equipment is expensive to install and run.
We are already seeing this in southern Europe, home to Europe's hottest cities. Southern Europe is also the region with the world’s oldest population, which is most vulnerable to heat. Heat waves are having such a significant impact that Seville, Spain's hottest city, became the first city to officially name and rank its heat waves, the same way other countries rank hurricanes. Energy poverty is typically associated with winter, but we need to widen that definition to include summer too.
But it’s not just traditionally warmer places that will be affected by heat stress. While they may not reach the same temperatures as we see in the south, northern city architecture is built to keep heat in rather than keep buildings cool. As heat waves across Europe become more frequent and more intense, we will see heat-related energy poverty impacts in cities like London. Decision makers need to understand how heat stress can impact work, life and health across the city, and take appropriate action.
4) Drought will have a big impact on southern Europe
Northern Europe is projected to get wetter, and southern Europe is likely to get drier. More intense drought, happening more often, has the potential to reshape parts of southern Europe into a desert. Drought is a major climate risk for cities in the region, such as Almeria, Athens, and Malaga.
Drought has complex, cascading environmental and human impacts, creating annual losses of €9bn. If countries don’t put adaptation measures in place, even if we limit warming to 1.5 C, drought losses across Europe could hit €24bn. Scientists have warned that a third of Southern Europe will experience water scarcity. Food systems will also come under increasing stress, as climate zones change and are no longer able to support traditional food crops. If that isn’t enough, climate change is making wildfire seasons longer, and wildfire risk will only increase as farms become untenable and land use changes.
The good news is that adaptation can make a significant difference. If implemented, adaptation measures could potentially halve the impact of increasing drought. Cities can act now to understand their climate risk, and put drought mitigation in place by adapting existing private and public assets, building necessary infrastructure and rethinking water management.
Collaborative, climate-informed decisions
The first step to creating resilient cities is meaningful, open conversations within city communities about what we value. Every decision matters, so we need to equip everyone with the Climate Intelligence they need to make the right ones. This is why shared visibility across every single asset is so important. Decision-makers at every level, from city planners and policymakers to local business and homeowners will need to be working from the same single source of truth.
To understand and communicate current and future climate risk, we need more than data. We need up-to-date, accurate intelligence across all our assets. Climate Intelligence brings the latest science, data and assets into one place so decision-makers can understand and manage climate risk, such as heat stress, heavy rainfall, flooding, and drought. Data is essential, but it’s Climate Intelligence that really taps into the knowledge and context necessary to understand and use that data.
Action on climate resilience for European cities needs to be collaborative. City resilience is built from a chain reaction of climate-informed decisions at individual, organizational, city-wide and national levels.
Climate resilience needs to include everyone, which means Climate Intelligence needs to be accessible, comparable, shareable and actionable. This is why Climate Intelligence must be networked and open to all.
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