Climate hazards impact more than four-fifths of cities worldwide, study finds

Pictured: Flooding in Cologne, Germany, earlier this year.

As global temperature records continue to be broken for the 12th consecutive month, new data from CDP – the non-profit organisation managing voluntary environmental disclosures from cities and businesses – indicates that flooding and extreme heat are the most pervasive impacts of climate change affecting cities worldwide.

In 2023, 1,131 cities reported their environmental data through CDP-ICLEI Track. More than 83% of these cities reported significant climate hazards, an increase from 80% in 2022.

More than half (56%) are already experiencing substantial impacts from these hazards. Looking ahead, around two-thirds of the cities expect these hazards to become more intense (67%) and more frequent (64%).

Flooding was the most reported hazard, with 58% of cities identifying it as a concern, followed by extreme heat (54%), drought (38%), heavy rain (35%) and the risk of wildfires (22%).

The impact of these climate hazards on vulnerable populations is stark, as per the data findings. Among cities reporting flooding, 98% indicated that low-income households were affected, 77% reported impacts on the elderly, and 67% on marginalised communities.

For extreme heat, 97% of cities noted that the elderly were affected, 75% reported impacts on low-income households, and 73% on children.

CDP’s director for cities, states and regions Maia Kutner said: “From the worst floods in nations’ histories to deadly heatwaves and wildfires, the effects of the climate breakdown are as devastating for cities and their people – especially in the Global South – as they are enormous in scale.

“Only data can give cities the insights they need to manage, mitigate and adapt to the impacts of our rapidly changing planet.”

“It is the unique key that leads directly to meaningful and effective action to deliver a greener, safer and more sustainable future.”

According to the data, nearly one-third of climate infrastructure projects reported by cities (727 out of 2,346) are aimed at enhancing climate adaptation and resilience, with 55% of these projects being in the Global South.

Collectively valued at $47bn, these projects seek about $21bn in investment, underscoring the critical connection between climate data disclosure and financing essential climate resilience projects.

Flooding incidents across the globe

According to the data, this year so far has already witnessed severe flooding in various parts of the world, including Brazil’s ‘worst’ floods in history in the state of Rio Grande do Sul and unprecedented floods in the typically arid Persian Gulf region.

Of the cities reporting climate hazards, flooding was cited by 83% in North America (164 cities), 80% in Europe (160 cities), 69% in Africa and the Middle East (49 cities), 66% in the Asia-Pacific region (113 cities) and 56% in Latin America (169 cities).

Major cities affected include Los Angeles (USA), Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), Rome (Italy), Lagos (Nigeria), Kolkata (India) and Sydney (Australia). All continents are impacted and impacts are felt in both the Global North and Global South.

Rising temperatures and extreme heatwaves

The data also highlights that heatwaves are intensifying globally, with India and the Philippines recording their highest-ever temperatures in May 2024.

Extreme heat was identified as a hazard by 85% of cities in North America (167 cities), 83% in Europe (166 cities), 54% in the Asia-Pacific region (92 cities), 51% in Africa and the Middle East (36 cities) and 50% in Latin America (153 cities).

Cities experiencing extreme heat include Montréal (Canada), Bogotá (Colombia), Paris (France), Johannesburg (South Africa), Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam) and Auckland (New Zealand).

UK’s climate adaptation policy

Earlier this year, the Climate Change Committee (CCC)’s adaptation panel and the National Infrastructure Commission cautioned that the UK is “absolutely lacking” in climate adaptation measures, placing agriculture, supply chains, power systems and public health at security risks.

The High Court recently mandated a judicial review of the UK Government’s national climate adaptation plan, in response to a legal challenge asserting that the plan falls short of protecting people, property and infrastructure from the impacts of climate change.

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