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April 29, 2022

Urban local weather knowledgeable Karen Seto provides insights on how cities may help clear up local weather disaster in ASU discuss

The science is out and unequivocally clear: Climate change is a menace to human well-being and the well being of the planet. In the final decade, city infrastructure and actions triggered about two-thirds of at the moment’s greenhouse gasoline emissions — and whereas cities proceed to be an enormous driver of emissions, one city local weather knowledgeable says that they too have to be crucial items of our local weather options. 

Karen Seto, co-lead writer of the city mitigation chapter of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel Climate Change (IPCC) Sixth Assessment Report and a professor at Yale University, spoke to just about 100 Arizona State University researchers, neighborhood members and college students final week on the Anthony J. Brazel Lecture hosted by ASU’s Urban Climate Research Center

The title of her discuss was “Cities and Climate Change: Key Findings From the IPCC 6th Assessment Report.”

“Speakers such as Dr. Seto bring important perspectives to our ongoing work on climate, enhancing our discourse and growing our global research network,” mentioned David Sailor, director of ASU’s Urban Climate Research Center and professor within the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning. “I’m particularly proud of the opportunity that the Brazel lecture gives our students and young researchers to interact with luminaries in the field.” 

According to the UN’s newest sequence of local weather change reviews, the previous decade noticed the very best stage of common yearly greenhouse gasoline emissions from human actions ever recorded, and a startling companion message from the report: “We’re simply not on track to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius” — the internationally acknowledged threshold that if breached would lead to excessive pure catastrophes like extreme droughts, meals shortages and excessive warmth waves throughout the globe.

“Any further delay in concerted global action will miss the brief, rapidly closing window to secure a liveable future,” mentioned Seto to a full crowd in ASU’s Memorial Union Alumni Room. “We have this window, and it’s rapidly closing.”

As the world’s inhabitants is predicted to rise by 2 billion individuals throughout the subsequent 30 years, with almost 70% of the world’s inhabitants estimated to dwell in cities, the decision for motion turns into much more pressing and private. 

While a handful of cities the world over have already begun adapting to scale back their emissions, and adaptation is growing all throughout the globe, progress continues to be uneven and never occurring quick sufficient, Seto says, particularly within the locations which might be most at-risk to a warming local weather’s results. 

“We need to simply accelerate adaptation,” Seto mentioned. “No cities are safe from climate change impacts until all cities are safe from climate change impacts.”

Solutions throughout all sectors

The newest U.N. report outlines mitigation methods and options throughout completely different crucial sectors and discusses the sensible steps that cities — that are on the confluence of all these sectors — can take to assist curb greenhouse gasoline emissions. 

Strategies throughout completely different sectors embrace: 

  • Major transitions in power to low- or no-carbon power programs and the electrification of our power programs (power sector).

  • Transitioning to low-carbon transportation like electrical autos or altering demand to make use of much less autos in additional walkable cities; and transitioning to different fuels (transport sector).

  • Retrofitting present buildings somewhat than constructing new buildings (constructing sector).

  • Leveraging new know-how that permits us to be extra environment friendly to reuse, recycle and decrease waste (business sector).

  • Prioritizing carbon seize as a key a part of the answer area to get to web zero emissions (land use sector).

Karen Seto spoke to a room of almost 100 ASU researchers, neighborhood members and college students on the Anthony J. Brazel Lecture final week, hosted by ASU’s Urban Climate Research Center. Photo courtesy of David Sailor

Additionally, Seto emphasised a brand new sector included for the primary time within the U.N.’s report on local weather change, centered on sensible options round altering “demand and services.” 

“It’s really clear that we can have a very high standard of living and still reduce our demand for energy,” Seto mentioned. 

The U.N.’s report exhibits that if we modify demand, it has the potential to convey down international emissions by 40–70% by 2050. 

“It’s about changing how frequently we use our cars; it’s how frequently we get the new iPhone; it’s (about) changing our consumption habits: walking, cycling, public transport; it’s transitioning to a more sustainable diet,” Seto mentioned. “It really focuses on what we can do as individuals to change our consumption habits.”

But Seto made it clear that if we don’t first have infrastructure that’s designed for us to stroll or take public transit, these should not choices on the native stage. Urban planning should play an essential function for cities to create the alternatives for individuals to vary habits. 

Not one-size-fits-all 

Seto says that the literature is obvious that city mitigation methods shall be completely different for various kinds of cities primarily based on a metropolis’s distinctive bodily traits and how briskly it’s anticipated to develop. 

“Are you in a city that’s rapidly growing, or are you in an established city, and what kind of footprint do you have?” mentioned Seto. “That will actually determine the entry point for whether you should focus on spatial planning or whether you should focus on electrification or really focus on changing demand.” 

For a metropolis like Tempe, she imagines a concentrate on spatial planning, after which additionally figuring out entry factors for altering demand and habits.

Prioritizing local weather change 

Moving into the longer term, Seto says that though know-how exists to advance many of those city options, two giant obstacles to implementing these options nonetheless exist: inexperienced finance and political will. 

“I don’t know of any city that thinks that climate change is the No. 1 thing that they should (deal with),” Seto mentioned. “We need to think about the policy hooks or strategy hooks that will engage city leaders, and that will vary depending on the city.” 

Seto explains it may begin with reframing how we talk local weather change adaptation as a co-benefit, with different points taking the lead function.

“Right now, we’re thinking you need to do climate change and the co-benefit is health, and co-benefit is improved jobs. Well, no, that’s not how cities think about it. Cities think, ‘How do I bring in more jobs?’” Seto mentioned. “I’m absolutely convinced having read so many papers for the assessment that we have the solutions, but it’s a matter of packaging them together and thinking about what is feasible.”

As a part of that, Seto believes that with each the science and options in hand, what’s lacking now could be a parallel course of that takes the cutting-edge science and implements it.

“When we think about the implementation, the implementation is going to vary by country, by capacity, by geography, by priorities. And so, I’m not really sure how to organize it,” Seto mentioned. “How can we not just hand over this report, but be part of the solution to implement the report?

“Part of why I’m here is to hear from all of you what you think. I think all of us have a role to play in being part of the solution.”

The Urban Climate Research Center (UCRC) at ASU is a globally acknowledged and revered group of students finding out a variety of city local weather subjects. Composed of almost 40 college associates throughout eight faculties at ASU, UCRC employs a collaborative social/bodily science framework to handle crucial points within the city atmospheric atmosphere. Learn extra at

Top photograph: Karen Seto delivers the the Anthony J. Brazel Lecture. Photo courtesy of David Sailor

David Rozul

Media Relations Officer , Media Relations and Strategic Communications


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