Urbanisation and Climate UPSC NOTE

 Complex interplay between urbanisation and climate

  • More than half of the world’s population now resides in the cities.

  • Thus vulnerable to urban climate change such as increased heat stress and extremes. 

  • Globally, cities contribute to more than 80% of the global GDP and 75% of all greenhouse gases/carbon emissions

  • They are both contributors to climate change and also potential agents for tackling it. 

  • However, their representation in Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and National Adaptation Plans is inadequate. 

  • Nevertheless, in recent times, the inclusion of the 11th sustainable development goal exclusively focusing on cities and the formation of groups like the U-20 under the G-20 umbrella have acknowledged the need for city-level action plans. 

  • The ministerial meeting on urbanisation and climate change at COP-28 stressed the importance and role of cities in achieving climate change mitigation and adaptation targets

  • These initiatives show the importance attached to cities and their role in global affairs including climate change mitigation and adaptation.

  • Bhubaneswar, a tier-II city in the eastern State of Odisha, is rapidly urbanising in recent times.

  • The built-up area in the city increased by about 166% during the period 2004-2015. 

  • Studies using satellite-based observations showed a nighttime heat dome over the city with an elevated temperature (about 1C).

  • Additionally, Bhubaneswar has warmed at a faster rate, with almost about 0.68C enhancement in the last two decades

  • Such warming is particularly higher in the newly urbanising areas in the periphery of the city, experiencing almost doubled warming over the same period.

  • As part of a larger effort in implementing the cities digital twin at the School of Earth Ocean and Climate Sciences at IIT Bhubaneswar, computer-based simulations were carried out to mimic the Bhubaneswar urban growth and hence change in the micro-climate and their relation to different factors such as climate change, city expansion, change in vegetation cover, etc. 

  • It was quantified that almost 60% of the overall warming observed over the city is due to local activities/changes

  • These studies were recently published in the journal Computational Urban Science.

  • In addition to the warming due to climate change, there is additional warming due to the trapping of heat by the concrete and asphalt materials used to build the city

  • The decreased evapotranspiration due to the replacement of natural surfaces with artificial impervious surfaces is also contributing to the observed warming. 

  • The inclusion of a minimalistic 3-D structure of the city within these simulations for winter time showed enhanced warming of almost 0.4C in the eastern lowland regions of the city mostly as a consequence of topographical asymmetry

  • There was further reduction in the wind speeds by about 0.2 metres per second, in the eastern fringes of the city, limiting dispersion of heat. 

  • In contrast, in the western region, the influence is nullified, possibly due to lower surface specific humidity affecting longwave radiation in a higher terrain setting

  • Both the terrain and local microclimate play a significant role in shaping winter urban surface temperatures, highlighting the complex interplay between urbanisation and climate. Urban planning to mitigate or adapt to these changes require systematic scientific explorations.

  • These changes are expected to further modify the spatial pattern, intensity, and duration of rainfall events with implication to urban floods.

  • These changes are also expected to modify the dispersion characteristics of air pollution within the city

  • Thus the implementation of a digital twin for the city will help in the experimentation of different mitigation strategies like cool roofs, highly reflective pavements, and blue-green infrastructure (water bodies and green spaces).

Amplifying factors

  • The ever-increasing population load and enhanced dependence on city resources will continue in the future, amplifying the hovering clouds of vulnerability/danger over the cities in the absence of city specific science driven strategies. 

  • Thus, building climate-resilient smart cities is important to ensure the health, safety, and comfort of the ever-increasing urban population.

  • Unlike the saturated big metro/mega cities, smaller cities have a larger scope for planned growth and expansion and, hence, the potential

to shift their growth trajectory towards sustainability. 

  • Therefore, as the harbingers of future climate change, comprehensive city-scale climate action plans supported by science to mitigate and adapt to the impacts of urbanisation and climate change are the need of the hour.



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Learnerz IAS | Concept oriented UPSC Classes in Malayalam: Urbanisation and Climate UPSC NOTE
Urbanisation and Climate UPSC NOTE
Learnerz IAS | Concept oriented UPSC Classes in Malayalam
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