Climate Week NYC: Large cities are at the forefront of climate change, experts say

ABC: America’s largest cities are at the forefront of climate change. About 80% of the U.S. population live in urban settings, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Some of the country’s most densely populated cities, like New York City, are already at the frontlines of global warming, according to experts.

“This particular section of the population is very vulnerable to a range of climate impacts,” Rachel Cleetus, policy director for the Climate and Energy Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists, told ABC News.

Hotter temperatures are posing threats to city dwellers

Heat is one of the two major impacts expected to plague cities as climate change continues to worsen, the experts told ABC News.

“Extreme heat is one of the most clearly recognized signals of climate change,” Cleetus said.

Not only are residents and infrastructure experiencing a steady rise in average temperatures, but when the extreme heat waves come, they pose an even greater danger, Malgosia Madajewicz, an associate research scientist for Columbia University’s Center for Climate Systems Research, told ABC News.

One of the biggest concerns for residents of large cities when a heat wave arrives are for those living in disadvantaged communities who do not have access to air conditioning or can not afford to run it all the time, Madajewicz said.

Extreme summertime heat overburdens vulnerable populations, especially communities of color living with low incomes, Cleetus said, citing mapping research the Union of Concerned Scientists has done to show the inequities of keeping cool in cities.

Heat illness is the number one weather-related killer in the world, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And while cooling centers are available during business hours, they do not help people stay cool at night, which tends to be the most dangerous time for people in vulnerable populations or with preexisting conditions to succumb to heat illness, Madajewicz said. Read more>>