The risks posed by global climate change is still uncertain. What is known is that the polar ice caps have melted quickly over the last decade, the hole in the ozone layer has grown, and weather patterns have changed substantially. There are some experts who believe that climate change and global warming are myths, but they are in the minority.
While there is a consensus in the scientific community that climate change is a serious problem, the same cannot be said for the general public. According to a recent Gallup poll, nearly 50% of Americans “now believe that the seriousness of global warming is generally exaggerated, up from 41% in 2009 and 31% in 1997,” when Gallup first asked the question. For officials in some cities, however, the problem is very real.
For one thing, pollution causes asthma and other diseases that can be expensive to treat. Beyond that, clean cities are more attractive to both businesses and people. No city wants to lose taxpayers because it is considered “dirty.” Environmental quality is also an important part of business development. Cities can draw businesses with tax breaks, but even the most generous of incentives may not be enough to overcome concerns about a city’s cleanliness or lack of preparedness regarding climate change.
Regardless of whether the debate is resolved in the scientific community or in the public’s mind, the leaders of many of the largest cities on earth have decided that it is better to operate under the assumption that the worst could occur.
On June 1st, 40 of the world’s largest cities devoted to preventing climate change – the C40 – met in New York to attend the signing of an unprecedented agreement sponsored by the World Bank. The measure is intended to improve and streamline funding to cities and local government projects to address climate change by creating standardized methods of dealing with climate change, and more accurately measuring effectiveness of greenhouse gas reduction. According to the New York Times, the World Bank’s climate investment fund was $6.4 billion last year, and these measures will potentially enable cities to receive new grants and investments for their programs from these funds, as well possibly billions from other sources.
The C40 cities – which include six from the United States – are at the forefront of the environmental movement. In the United States, the cities of New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Houston, and Los Angeles, are implementing technology and local projects with two goals in mind: First, they aim to reduce the potential effects of climate change on their city by reducing carbon emissions and other greenhouse gases. This includes setting carbon emissions targets, using alternative energy sources, such as solar and wind, and improving the energy efficiency of existing infrastructure.
The second goal addresses future problems caused by climate change such as rising temperatures and planning for reduced access to water. In Chicago, where temperatures are expected to rise to the point where the climate would be like Alabama, it is planning on installing air conditioners in most public schools. Officials in Philadelphia are trying to reduce the amount of paved space in the city, which will help reduce the effect of warm temperatures compounded by concrete.
The reasons these cities have chosen to jump on the green bandwagon are both political and practical. Many are trying to earn their city the title of “the greenest,” which planners believe will attract new citizens, new investments and new jobs, and improve the fiscal health of local businesses by reducing their energy bills. An additional incentive is that no one stands to lose more infrastructure and people than these major American cities.
24/7 Wall St. has reviewed the efforts of each of the five largest American cities by population – Philadelphia, Houston, Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York City. Each are transforming themselves into models of green technology by using alternative energy sources, building energy efficient buildings and developing eco-friendly transportation. The cities’ Energy Star ratings, which measures the energy efficiency of buildings and appliances, were also considered. In addition, we reviewed the American Lung Association’s Annual State of The Air Report and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) risk assessments for climate change and air pollution.
This is What America’s Big Cities are Doing to Fight Climate Change