Saturday, November 3, 2007

Climate Change and Cities: The Social Tension Factor

Climate Change, Social Tension, and Cities

New York Mayor Bloomberg plans to attend the upcoming U.N. climate change conference in Bali. “It’s time for America to re-establish its leadership on all issues of international importance, including climate change”, Bloomberg declared at a recent United States Conference of Mayors.

What is the link? The Kyoto protocol can also be ratified and signed/ratified by other governmental entities, including cities. In the United States, 600 cities have signed the agreement. New York is not a signatory, but many big and small cities have, including Los Angeles, Miami, San Francisco, and Chicago.

Signing the agreement is one thing but doing something about it is something else. Cities’ first impulse will be to deal with or counteract the affects of climate change. This can only be partially successful since the enduring trends of climate change will become am increasingly greater tax on city services and operations. Some cities will see more climate change than others and result in a wide gamut of impacts.

Cities will be short sighted if they limit their response to solely counter-acting the change in climate. The change in climate will influence many areas of social policy, including economic development, community health, and social tension, among others.

Social tension may adversely affect economic development and community health by forcing transitions in lifestyles and occupant communities in neighborhoods. Migration impacts from suffering area of climate change will push trends while changes in eco-systems will pull them.

Urbanization of the world is fast proceeding and now, for the first time, more people live in cities than in the country. This trend in the United States and worldwide will tend to aggravate problems in city environments. Climate change will add its own weight to city concerns.

Jim Lee

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