At the recent Smart Cities Week in Vienna, Fritz Reusswig from the renowned Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research talked about the impact of climate change on cities. Climate change is here, we are on track to an unprecedented 4-6°C temperature increase until 2100 and climate change adaptation and mitigation are both necessary, just to mention the facts first.
While cities are already experiencing some effects of climate change such as more extreme weather events, they will be hit hardest by increasing sea levels in the future, leading to more floods, salination of drinking water and ultimately a loss of coastal cities.
“That leaves us with a few clear choices: We can do nothing and expose ourselves to an increasing frequency of Sandy-like storms that do more and more damage. Or we can abandon the waterfront. Or we can make the investments necessary to build a stronger, more resilient New York – investments that will pay for themselves many times over in the years to come. Whether you believe climate change is real or not is beside the point – we can’t run the risk.” (Michael Bloomberg)
Moreover, European summers are already getting hotter and extreme heat waves will affect 90% of our world’s regions in this century (compared to 10% in 1950 and 40% in 2000 in the Northern hemisphere).
This puts extreme stress on people (especially the elderly) and infrastructure (requiring more energy for cooling) in times when Austrian cities are simply not built to handle temperatures of 40°C or more.
So, adaptation becomes necessary and can begin with green spaces, green rooftops and other infrastructure measures that aim at creating resilient cities.
Urban resilience means to cope with shock and chronic stress, to adapt to climate change and to develop the ability to quickly recover without impeding long-term development. In this regard, resilient systems need to be robust, flexible and adaptable.
And they need to be about short-term action but especially also about long-term forward planning and action. For Austria’s growing cities, this means to strike a balance between densification and the preservation of public space, to foster mixed use development, to change urban mobility (moving away from cars) and to make urban recreation areas easily accessible.
Note: This blogpost is part of a series of blogposts on interesting events from 2013 that I haven’t blogged about yet. As they’re dealing with rather timeless issues, I am finally sharing these insights at the turn of the year where both I as a blogger and you as a reader hopefully have the time to enjoy them.