A Map Of Climate Change Threats And Solutions From The World's Cities

Since national governments seem unable or unwilling to act, cities may end up being at the forefront of the fight against climate change. This map shows what the world’s largest cities are facing, and what they’re going to do about it.

As national governments stall on meaningful reductions to greenhouse gas emissions, cities are emerging as the world’s best hope for dealing with climate change. Which is just as well--up to 70% of the world’s population will be urban by 2050 (according to the UN), up from about half now.

Back in the summer, we wrote about a report from the C40 looking at how major cities are adapting to climate change. Now, Autodesk has visualized the data. The map shows the 42 cities that responded to a questionnaire circulated by the Carbon Disclosure Project, a pioneering nonprofit that already tracks the emissions reporting of thousands of companies.

From the map, you can see how cities see their drought, storm, and other risks, what targets they’ve set for emissions reductions, and how they manage the climate change issue internally. To get to the data, go to the Legend pane on the right and toggle on one of the layers (say, "Flooding Risks"). Then click on a city, making sure the arrow selection tool is activated. The data will appear in the selection window. (For other help, go here).

In the report, 90% of cities said climate change would affect them; 43% said they are already dealing with the effects; and 79% said it could curb the ability of businesses to operate. Of the C40, 27 have so far set emissions reduction targets--and sometimes far in advance of country-wide goals. Melbourne and Copenhagen, for example, both want 100% cuts by 2030.

Worldwide, cities generate about 70% of global carbon output, so what city halls do to combat climate change matters a huge amount. Unfortunately, not all of them are reporting their climate policies like the ones mapped here; the Carbon Disclosure Project hopes for a wider participation in 2012. Among its recommendations, it wants to see more standardization of emissions measurement, better tools for city-level risk assessments, and more incentives for city employees to push policies forward. With those improvements, cities might actually start taking the place of national governments as the drivers of sensible climate policy.

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  • James S Mastaler

    Given the challenges and roadblocks the international community continues to face in fora such as the UNFCCC, perhaps collaboration among cities can serve to bolster and encourage success in future COPs.