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July 12, 2022updated 26 Oct 2022 4:53pm

Which cities are most affected by climate change?

Some cities are more affected by climate change than others. From Jakarta to Miami, these are the cities that feel its effect more.

By Silvia Pellegrino

Climate change is impacting the entire world; however, there are some cities that will feel its effects more than others.

The UN has warned, in the UN Environment Programme, that urban areas are taking the consequences of climate change while, at the same time, contributing to the increasing importance and severity of the world’s declining environmental situation.

floods climate change
Flooding is a serious issue in many cities affected by climate change. (Photo by brazzo/iStock)

Rising global temperatures are causing an increasing number of natural disasters, which in some cases have deadly results. Professor Lei Zhao, an environmental engineering expert at the University of Illinois, calculated that the average summer temperatures could rise between 1.9°C and 4.4°C by the end of the century.

This is a list of ten cities that are vulnerable to climate change.

1. Jakarta, Indonesia

According to a 2021 report by Verisk Maplecroft, a risk analyst company, of the 100 cities most affected by climate change, 99 are in Asia. And the report found that the most vulnerable one is Jakarta, Indonesia.

Air pollution is the biggest cause of concern in Indonesia’s capital, which is also cursed with seismic activity and flooding.

According to Vox, Jakarta is also “the world’s fastest-sinking city”. This is because access to water is very limited, so more than ten million citizens are forced to extract it from the ground, which is leading to the submerging of the land.

The situation is so dire that President Joko Widodo is planning to build a new city in Kalimantan on the island of Borneo with the goal of making it the new capital.

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2. Delhi, India

Verisk Maplecroft’s risk report also ranks Delhi as the second city most affected by climate change.

To be specific, 13 of the 20 highest-risk cities are in India: Kanpur, Agra, and Chennai even rank in the top ten.

Verisk Maplecroft stated that India’s urban populations’ health was at risk because of the high percentage of pollution found in the cities. In particular, Delhi is very contaminated. The report also found that “noxious air cause almost one in five deaths in India in 2019”, adding that water pollution is also a danger, causing around 400,000 deaths every year.

3. Lima, Peru

Lima is considered to be the most endangered city in the Americas.

Like the cities in India, Lima has air pollution issues. These are caused by vehicle emissions, and researchers at the University of Chicago discovered that if the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) guidelines on pollution levels in the atmosphere were respected, the population’s life span could increase by an average of 4.7 years.

Another issue for Lima’s population is the poor quality of housing, and infrastructural problems.

4. Lagos, Nigeria

Lagos is the most populated city in Africa, and it may soon be unliveable.

Even if yearly floods are normal and expected in Nigeria, the past couple of years’ rainy seasons have been extreme. CNN reported that “the floods paralyse economic activity, at an estimated cost of around $4bn (£2.9bn) per year”.

Verisk Maplecroft’s Climate Change Vulnerability Index also shows that African cities will be more affected by environmental threats than others, because of the lack of resources to mitigate their impacts.

5. Karachi, Pakistan

Sixteen million is the number of people who live in Karachi. And they have all experienced the deadly effects of extreme, unbearable heat; this is why it ranks as the 12th riskiest city.

In particular, 2015 was the year when more than 1,200 people died in the city due to a heatwave with temperatures that reached over 49°C.

Overpopulation is also an issue, as the UN expects Karachi’s population to increase to more than 20 million by the end of the decade. Natural disasters, such as monsoons, are also a threat to Pakistan.

[Read more: Why granular data is essential for climate risk insights]

6. Port-au-Prince, Haiti

According to studies, Haiti will experience both an increase in temperatures and storm length and frequency, as well as a decrease in dry-season precipitation. Haiti is also very at risk for tropical cyclones.

Port-au-Prince, the capital of Haiti, is therefore at high risk of climate change impact. In addition, the past decade has also brought more destruction with high-magnitude earthquakes.

7. Miami, Florida

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson manifested worry for Miami’s future at Cop26, telling other world leaders that Miami could be “lost beneath the waves” if global temperatures were to rise even by 4°C.

In fact, the surrounding sea could rise by 6in by the end of the decade, and journalist Mario Alejandro Ariza wrote that “infrastructure planners are bracing for two feet by 2060”. “There is an inescapable truth about life in South Florida,” Ariza added.

8. Muscat, Oman

In March 2021, temperatures reached a scorching 41.3°C, a mercury reading that would be expected closer to the month of June.

A very powerful cyclone hit the city in October 2021 too. The last time a cyclone of this magnitude hit the country was in 2007, but climate change is “making disasters like this more common”, NPR reported.

9. Manila, Philippines

Bloomberg said that the sea water level in Manila Bay is rising “more than four times faster than the global average”.

Manila has been hit, in recent years, by cyclones too. The situation is not made easier by the rapid urbanisation and overpopulation.

A Global Climate Risk Index ranks it as the 17th most at-risk country, with 145,000 people injured or displaced by disasters at the end of 2020, says the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre.

10. Shanghai, China

With a population of 20 million people, Shanghai is also in the ranking of most endangered cities.

Shanghai, being a coastal city, is also one of the world’s most vulnerable to flooding. According to Climate Central projections, 17.5 million people could be displaced by rising waters if global temperatures rise by 3°C.

Flood controls have been put in place, such as flood prevention walls being built along the waterfront. However, this does not lessen the risk Shanghai is facing.

[Read more: Cities and climate change: Why low-rise buildings are the future – not skyscrapers]

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