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Cities may expand by area equal to 3 nations combined within 20 yrs

Burgeoning urbanization may pose a threat to humanity as experts have asserted that unless development patterns change,humanity’s urban footprint will occupy an additional 1.5 million square kilometres by 2030.

Written by Agencies | Washington | Published: March 28, 2012 3:28:05 pm

Burgeoning urbanization may pose a threat to humanity as experts have asserted that unless development patterns change,humanity’s urban footprint will occupy an additional 1.5 million square kilometres by 2030.

The area is comparable to the combined territories of France,Germany and Spain,according to experts at a major international science meeting underway in London.

UN estimates show human population growing from 7 billion today to 9 billion by 2050,translating into some 1 million more people expected on average each week for the next 38 years,with most of that increase anticipated in urban centres.

And ongoing migration from rural to urban living could see world cities receive yet another 1 billion additional people. Total forecast urban population in 2050: 6.3 billion (up from 3.5 billion today).

The question isn’t whether to urbanize but how,said Dr. Michail Fragkias of Arizona State University.

Unfortunately,he added,today’s ongoing pattern of urban sprawl puts humanity at severe risk due to environmental problems.

Dense cities designed for efficiency offer one of the most promising paths to sustainability,and urbanization specialists will share a wealth of knowledge available to drive solutions.

Shobhakar Dhakal,Executive Director of the Tokyo-based Global Carbon Project,says reforms in existing cities and better planning of new ones offer disproportionately large environmental benefits compared with other options.

“Re-engineering cities is urgently needed for global sustainability,” said Dr. Dhakal,adding that emerging urban areas “have a latecomer’s advantage in terms of knowledge,sustainability thinking,and technology to better manage such fundamentals as trash and transportation.”

Over 70 percent of CO2 emissions today relate to city needs. In billions of metric tonnes,urban-area CO2 emissions were estimated at about 15 in 1990 and 25 in 2010,with forecasts of growth to 36.5 by 2030,assuming business as usual.

Addressing climate change therefore demands focusing on urban efficiencies,like using weather conditions and time of day-adjusted toll systems to reduce traffic congestion,for example.

An “Internet of things” is forming,he notes – a fast-growing number of high-tech,artificially intelligent,Internet-connected cars,appliances,cameras,roadways,pipelines and more – in total about one trillion in use worldwide today.

Fragkias notes that while there were fewer than 20 cities of 1 million or more a century ago,there are 450 today.

While urban areas cover less than five per cent of Earth’s land surface,“the enlarged urban footprint forecast is far more significant proportionally when vast uninhabitable polar,desert and mountain regions,the world breadbasket plains and other prime agricultural land and protected areas are subtracted from the calculation.”

“We have a unique opportunity now to plan for a coming explosion of urbanization in order to decrease pressure on ecosystems,improve the livelihoods of billions of people and avoid the occurrence of major global environmental problems and disasters. That process cannot wait,” said Roberto Sanchez-Rodriguez,Professor Emeritus of Environmental Sciences at the University of California,Riverside.

“It is also important to stress that differences exist in the urbanization process in high-,low- and middle-income countries and reflect them in our strategies.

“We need to move beyond traditional approaches to planning and be responsive to informal urban growth,to the value of ecosystem services,and to the need of multidimensional perspectives (social,economic,cultural,environmental,political,biophysical),” Sanchez-Rodriguez added.

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