With American cities predicted to become significantly hotter as a result of global warming, city planners and elected officials must now determine how to protect residents from dangerously high temperatures.
According to researchers at the University of Maryland’s Center for Environmental Science, if greenhouse gas emissions continue at current levels, by 2080 cities in the United States will have much warmer temperatures. Per the center’s website:
The climate of cities in the northeast will tend to feel more like the humid subtropical climates typical of parts of the Midwest or southeastern U.S. today—warmer and wetter in all seasons. For instance, Washington, D.C. will feel more like northern Mississippi. The climates of western cities are expected to become more like those of the desert Southwest or southern California—warmer in all seasons, with changes in the amount and seasonal distribution of precipitation. San Francisco’s climate will resemble that of Los Angeles.
“Every city gets warmer, none get cooler,” University of Maryland researcher Matt Fitzpatrick told The Guardian in an interview. “Cities have built infrastructure for a climate that will no longer be there. They will have to live with more heat and, if they are on the coast, flooding too. In the lifetime of children today, a lot of these places are going to be dramatically transformed.”
In response to predictions that cities will get hotter and the reality that summers already have drastically warmer temps in many places, municipal leaders must now determine the best way to protect their residents. Extreme heat could lead to dehydration, heatstroke and even death for vulnerable populations like the elderly, people experiencing homelessness and lower-income earning people without access to air conditioning.
Under the resilience plan, all DC buildings must be retrofitted to cope with rising heat and flooding threats by 2050, with all new buildings adhering to stricter codes within 13 years. The most at-risk buildings may even be removed.
There’s a plan to add more greenery to DC by planting more trees, which will provide shade, and other vegetation that will help soak up stormwater from heavy downpours. The curbsides of several major streets are already getting a makeover, with new plants being bedded in to help cool down the city.
In Dallas, the city council passed a climate resolution in January. The city is currently experiencing more extreme storms and flooding, and University of Maryland researchers predict that by 2080 it will be nearly 9 degrees hotter and three times wetter.
“It’s the worst of all potential worlds, really,” James McGuire, director of environmental quality for the city of Dallas, told The Guardian. “We are getting more asthma problems. We are getting more drought. We are getting diseases like Zika and West Nile that Texans never really used to worry about before. We just hope the most dire projections won’t happen.”
To read the full listing of University of Maryland’s predictions for future temperatures, click here.