Science

Climate crisis: 6 resilient cities using infrastructure to beat the heat

This is what we should be doing.

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The climate crisis won’t be easy on cities.

Thanks to dense populations and complicated infrastructure, many urban areas are already experiencing deadly heat waves and flooding.

How can we make cities more resilient to climate disasters?

Current infrastructure wasn’t built to handle extreme storms or rising temperatures. But some cities are experimenting with new ideas that will help them weather the future.

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On November 3 at the international COP26 climate conference, UN representatives released practical steps leaders can take to cool down urban centers.

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They included a total of 80 case studies as examples of effective climate measures that cities have already implemented for a cooler future.

Here’s how 6 cities are beating the heat in response to climate change:

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6. Seoul, South Korea

Restoring the Cheonggyecheon River, which runs through the city, resulted in several cooling benefits.

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First off, having a sizeable river in a city helps cool off the area surrounding it.

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In Seoul’s case, the river restoration went hand-in-hand with the construction of walkways and bike paths, which offer people lower-emission methods of transit.

5. Paris, France

Paris is home to the first and largest district cooling system in Europe, and offers a sustainable alternative to air conditioning.

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The cooling system takes water from the Seine river, chills it, and runs it through pipes around buildings to bring the temperature down.

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Traditional air conditioners release 117 million metric tons of CO2 into the atmosphere every year from the U.S. alone and use about 6 percent of the country’s electricity.

4. Toronto, Canada

Relying on water from Lake Ontario, Toronto created the world’s largest lake-source cooling system.

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In the summer, a reservoir of cold water sits at the bottom of the deep lake, which is pumped through pipes to cool buildings in the downtown region.

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These types of systems can decrease electricity use by up to 90 percent, according to the UN report.

3. Medellín, Colombia

Creating more green space in the city brought the temperature down during the year’s hottest months.

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Medellín’s green corridor project put more trees and green spaces around the city, totaling 36 hectares.

Areas in the city that have green corridors saw temperature reductions of up to 4 degrees Celcius, according to the UN.

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2. Guangzhou, China

Guangzhou implemented a large central cooling system that turns down the heat in a wide range of places, from businesses to the subway.

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The centralized system operates fully underground and cools about 2 million square meters of the city.

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In the city’s central region, the temperature is 2 to 3 degrees Celsius lower than if it used a distributed cooling system.

1. Boulder, Colorado

The city has some of the strictest energy codes in the country — serving as a model for how to build sustainable infrastructure.

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Beyond energy efficiency, builders in the city are required to use a certain amount of sustainable materials and are encouraged to implement renewable energy infrastructure.

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Boulder aims to have net-zero emissions by 2035.