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Extreme Weather and Climate Change: Three Cities Focus on Resilience

“The acidity of the water in some stretches is now so strong that it will soon be unusable.”

In an era of climate change, weather around the world is becoming more unpredictable and more extreme. Every year, storms, heat waves, and droughts are occurring with much more frequency and severity, greater complexity, and with more inter-related effects. Among the least prepared for the impacts of climate change are low-income urban groups, who often live in informal settlements and hazard-prone areas such as on riverbanks or along exposed coastlines.

In collaboration with Rockhopper TV and the BBC, The Rockefeller Foundation has supported the development of a documentary series focusing on the vulnerabilities cities are facing from climate change. Here’s a look at the challenges and on-the-ground resilience efforts of three cities—Havana, Paris, and Adelaide—to improve individuals and communities abilities to cope with, respond to, and recover from disasters.

Hurricane Gustav, the second most destructive hurricane in 2008, completely destroyed close to 30,000 homes and damaged another 100,000 homes. There isn’t enough money to rebuild all the houses to withstand hurricanes but through combined efforts of researchers and architects, they are exploring how building designs can help adapt houses so that they can withstand worsening hurricanes.

An unprecedented heat wave swept through France in the summer of 2003 causing as many as 70,000 deaths as temperatures soared to 95 degrees Fahrenheit (35 degrees Celsius). “Never had we seen this number of deaths,” recounted a healthcare worker in Paris who said the majority of the victims were elderly. It is predicted that the number of days France will experience heat waves will increase from 3 days at the beginning of the century to about 40 days by 2100. How can the city respond? Meteo France suggests having an early warning system to forecast a few days in advance and to communicate this information to its people.

Australia is the world’s driest inhabited continent and droughts have increasingly become more severe because of climate change. Farmers are feeling this impact annually and the result is devastating as they provide half of Australia’s food supply. As the Murray River runs dry in Adelaide, experts are worried about what this would mean to the 1.3 million people who are heavily dependent on the river, “The acidity of the water in some stretches is now so strong that it will soon be unusable.” The city is sending a strong call to urge leaders to plan for climate change and work out what has to be done to survive.

For more innovative solutions that are helping communities, states and greater regions become more resilient to future disasters, here’s a look at how rapidly growing Asian cities are preparing.

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