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City planners must make sure to integrate broader development agendas with climate change adaptation and mitigation policies say Cynthia Rosenweig, William Solecki, Stephen A. Hammer and Shagun Mehrotra in Nature.

Cities — responsible for 71 per cent of global energy-related carbon emissions — are crucial to global mitigation efforts say the authors. Built mostly on coasts and riverbanks, they are also particularly vulnerable to increases in sea-level and storm surges, they argue.

Poor people concentrated in growing slums will face the worst economic and social stress — in Lagos, for example, 70 per cent of the population lives in slums and a sea-level rise of one metre could displace 3.6 million people.

There is a need to link scientific expertise with city decision-makers' needs and requirements, argue the authors. For example new public transport networks to cut carbon emissions might fail to include adaptation measures such as their positioning on derelict land often most at risk from flooding.

The authors argue that city leaders are willing and able to protect their cities — World Mayors Council on Climate Change will be meeting in Mexico City ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference (COP 16) in Cancun in November to strengthen their commitment to adaptation and mitigation — but policy efforts must be based on timely scientific evidence.

This should include long-term trends, potential tipping points, the role of parks as coolants, temperature change effects on disease vectors and a better understanding of 'CO2 domes' that form over cities, argue the authors. Considering climate change and disasters together in risk-reduction assessments will also make cities safer.

Link to full article in Nature