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Cities must meet climate change challenge
15 Oct 2009


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Future British homes may have to be built on stilts, people will have to recycle water and we'll have to get better at conserving energy if our growing cities are to cope with global warming, say researchers.

In a report for the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, scientists have outlined how cities will need to prepare for increased flooding, rising temperatures and summer droughts as they continue to grow.


The report is the result of three years' work to figure out how Britain's cities can expand, as well as reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and plan for the threats of climate change.

'Most importantly we need to cut our CO2 emissions, but we also have to prepare for extremes of weather - heat waves, droughts and flooding - which we're already starting to see,' says Dr Richard Dawson from Newcastle University, one of the report's authors.


Scientists, led by Professor Jim Hall from Newcastle University, used state-of-the-art climate models at the Met Office to analyse how global warming will affect a growing city such as London.

As well as recommending that we prepare our homes and buildings for the growing risk of floods from rising sea levels, the report's authors say we should cut CO2 emissions, reduce water use and use greener forms of transport.

Although the project focussed on London, the authors say its results can be applied to any British city.

'The UK has agreed to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by an average of eight per cent of 1990 levels by 2012, which means we're going to have to re-think our energy systems, transport and how we design the built environment,' says Dawson.

Researchers have calculated that up to 80 per cent of global carbon dioxide emissions come from urban areas. London alone is responsible for eight per cent of the UK's CO2 emissions.

And with the city's population predicted to rise by nearly one million by 2016 to 8.1 million, its CO2 emissions are set to rise if we don't change our habits.

As the climate warms, scientists have predicted that urban areas will be vulnerable to flooding by rivers, the sea or intense downpours. Other threats include heat waves, poor air quality and strong storms.

The researchers found that by the 2050s, a third of London's summers may be hotter than the Met Office heat wave temperature threshold.

'There's not a simple solution to this problem. We need a portfolio of measures that work together to minimise the impact of climate change whilst allowing for our cities to grow,' says Hall, the lead author of the report.

'Taking steps to reduce our demand for energy, transport and water tend to be more cost effective than measures to increase supply,' says Dawson.

'Good planning is the key - we have shown that land-use planning influences how much people travel and how they heat and cool their buildings, and hence CO2 emissions,' he adds.


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Source: Planetearth