Kuala Lumpur and Singapore are among cities that will face “unprecedented” climate shifts by 2050, researchers warned this week. Such shifts could include changes in rainfall patterns, leading to more severe flooding and droughts, according to climate scientists from Crowther Lab, a research group based at ETH Zurich, a science and technology university.
The scientists had analysed 520 cities across the world, including all capitals and most urban centres with a population of more than 1 million. Looking at current climate conditions in these cities – including precipitation and seasonal data – scientists projected what would happen as temperatures rise another half degree, to near the lower 1.5 degree Celsius target set in the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change.
Crowther Lab scientists said their study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, is the first global analysis of the likely shifts in climate conditions in major cities as a result of global warming. The study showed that 77 per cent of the cities it looked at will experience a striking change in climate conditions by 2050. Additionally, a fifth of the world’s cities will experience unprecedented climate changes, such as more intense dry and monsoon seasons, said Jean Francis-Bastin, the lead author of the report.
Of the 22 per cent of cities that will see unprecedented climate shifts, 64 per cent are located in the tropics and include Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta, Rangoon and Singapore, researchers said. These cities in the tropics are likely to see the strongest impacts from climate change, the study said, but will experience smaller changes in average temperature. “It is a change in climate conditions that is likely to increase the risk of flooding and extreme drought,” said Francis-Bastin. “It is unknown conditions.”
The study may help cities modify their planning to combat specific climate risks, Francis-Bastin said. He said he also hoped it would help persuade people to change their lifestyles to cut planet-warming emissions and cut the risks. “We definitely and very quickly need to change the way we are living on the planet. Otherwise we are just going to have more and more droughts, flooding and extreme events,” he said.
GLOBAL TEMPERATURES TO GO UP 2.4 DEGREES CELSIUS
Across the northern hemisphere, many cities in 30 years’ time could resemble places that are more than 1,000km further south towards the equator, said the study, which projected conditions if current plans to cut climate-changing emissions go ahead.
Globally, temperatures are likely to be 2.4 degrees Celsius warmer on average – enough to kill nearly every coral reef and soar past targets set out in the Paris Agreement. In Europe, cities will warm by an average of about 2.5 degrees Celsius across the year, but summers and winters could be 3.5 degrees Celsius and 4.7 degrees Celsius warmer, respectively.
Almost 70 per cent of the world’s population is expected to be living in urban areas by 2050, according to the United Nations. Limiting global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius would avoid economic losses of US$12 trillion by 2050. Under the Paris Agreement, which has been ratified by more than 200 countries, governments have pledged to keep global warming “well below” 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times and strive for a lower limit of 1.5 degree Celsius.