A tale of two cities’ threats: climate change and extreme events in contemporary society

2nd June 2023

Author: Felix Kwabena Donkor, Department of Geography Education, University of Education Winneba, Ghana.

Felix Kwabena Donkor photo

The rise of cities represent a defining moment in human civilisation. Humanity initially survived by way of hunting and gathering for thousands of years until the coming of agriculture.

The Neolithic era saw a progress towards crop cultivation and animal domestication. This development resulted in more secure access to food and other basic resources needed for human survival. Such conditions created the conducive environment for people to be able to dwell in one place for long unlike before, which resulted in the creation of settled communities and cities. This is a common thread that runs through the fabric of the earliest human civilisations from Mesopotamia to Egypt. To a large extent the essence of conducive environments for human settlements to thrive cannot be overemphasised even in our contemporary society. It is in acknowledgement of this that Goal 11 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) seeks to “Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable”.

However, one of the most serious challenges to the survival of cities in our modern society is climate change and its induced impacts which continue to undermine the sustainability of cities. Climate change denotes long-term variations in temperatures and weather patterns. It has been recorded that since the1800s, the activities of humans also referred to as anthropogenic activities have been the core drivers of climate change. When fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas are burnt, they produce greenhouse gases that behave like a blanket that wraps around the Earth, thus traps the sun’s heat and raises surface temperatures.

The impacts of climate change embrace severe droughts, water shortages, intense fires, rising sea levels, floods, melting polar ice, severe storms and loss of biodiversity. These come with dire consequences on the efficient functioning of cities especially its basic services, infrastructures, accommodation, human livelihoods and health. Thus, addressing the impacts of climate change in cities has gained policy focus. Such a goal becomes even more urgent when one considers that presently, over 10,000 cities are spread across the globe, with two-thirds of the World's population projected to reside in urban areas by 2025. This concern also informs a recent article by Walter Leal Filho et al. (2022)[1]; "Climate change and extremes: implications on city livability and associated health risks across the globe" which was published in the International Journal of Climate Change Strategies and Management.

This study considered the multidimensional impacts of climate change on modern cities especially regarding city dwellers’ health. Due to cities often concentrating populations, extreme weather events impact a greater number of individuals as opposed to lesser populated areas.

This scenario is being further aggravated as extreme weather events are projected to increase in frequency and intensity. Cities also host large numbers of poor populations such as slum dwellers (especially low-income countries) whose precarious conditions further undermine their health and wellbeing.

Improving access to clean potable water, safeguarding air quality, improving sanitary conditions, conserving environmental resources, improved urban infrastructure and planning are all amongst the suite of complementary solutions to this grave challenge.


Leal Filho, W., Tuladhar, L., Li, C., Balogun, A-LB., Kovaleva, M., Abubakar, I.R., Azadi, H. and Donkor, F.K.K. (2023) "Climate change and extremes: implications on city livability and associated health risks across the globe", International Journal of Climate Change Strategies and Management, Vol. 15 No. 1, pp. 1-19.

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