The third and final installment of the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change's (IPCC) "working group" reports was published Monday and the take-home message was crystal clear: "The high-speed mitigation train needs to leave the station very soon and all of global society needs to get on board," said the chair, Rajendra Pachauri.
Decades of foot-dragging by political leaders has pushed humanity into a critical situation, said the report, with carbon emissions rising faster than ever. But the report outlined a modest reason for hope: With smart choices, there is time to alleviate the worst, and the political will to do so is on the rise.
Much of the positive spin can be found in the chapter 8 of the report, which deals with cities and urbanization. Each week the global urban population increases by 1.3 million, and by 2050, it is likely to rise to about two-thirds of everyone on Earth. Smart choices in urban planning and investment in public transport could help significantly lower greenhouse gas emissions, especially in developing countries.
"The next two decades present a window of opportunity for urban mitigation as most of the world's urban areas and their infrastructure have yet to be constructed," the report said.
Around 1 billion people currently live in cities and coastal areas at risk of sea-level rise and coastal flooding. But those threatened cities also produce a large and growing share of emissions, which makes them central to addressing the issue.
"They are at the frontlines of this issue," said Seth Schultz, research director for the C40 group of mega-cities, told the Guardian. "And on the whole cities have extraordinarily strong power to deliver on these things."
Photo: An urban slum contrasts with upscale construction in the coastal city of Dhaka, Bangladesh. (via)