The Urban Heat Island ‘Nuisance’ and Climate Change

The world we live in today is warming steadily and increasingly. Studies done by the IPCC indicate that human beings have been at the center of the warming for over 2000 years. This warming is attributed to emission of greenhouse gases which accumulated over years as a result of human activities.

According to a report of experts published shortly after the start of COP 26 in Glasgow this year (BEATING THE HEAT: A SUSTAINABLE COOLING HANDBOOK FOR CITIES), 2020 was the hottest year on record with an average global surface temperature of 1.3 degrees Celsius.

The report further indicates that the period between 2014 and 2020 was the hottest in recorded history of 140 years. Experts add that the phenomena is as a result of greenhouse gas emissions.

Urbanization and population bulge of the history of civilization has been steady. The two factors are also leading contributors of global warming that drives climate change.

Studies reveal that the world’s cities are warming up at twice the global average rate due to the urban heat island effect which has taken effect with global warming.

You might be wondering then, what exactly is Urban heat Island. This is a situation created in cities and urban centres where temperatures increase than the surrounding environment because of diminished green spaces, thermal elements of construction materials alias the grey environment and emissions from human activities.

Cities such as Nairobi, Dar Es Salaam and Kampala are no exception to this phenomenon. This is because of their proximity to the tropics, population pressure and the grey environment which has overtaken the green environment. Virtually all cities across the world are already suffocating from the urban heat island.

Experts warn that by 2100 cities across the world will by an estimate average of 4 degrees celcius. This has a huge implication on the Paris Accord of maintaining the temperature well below 1.5 degrees celcius.

Impacts of the Urban Heat Island Effect

Ideally warmer cities mean catastrophic effect  on human and ecosystem health because an increase beyond 1.5-2.0 degrees celcius will be intolerable to human systems. The heat stress which has already been witnessed in the west countries like Canada, and Australia will increase. For instance, there were a global yearly estimate of deaths by 2030 related to heating of 92,207 people which may increase to 255,486 people in 2050 if nothing is done as per the projections.

According to statistics about 125million people were exposed to heatwaves from 2000 to 2016 alone. This heatwaves may result to mortalities which will have a socio-economic impacts on human resource productivity. Studies indicate that by 2030 an economic loss of about 2.3trillion USD will be witnessed due to loss of 80 million jobs across the world.

The most disturbing of this results is that developing countries with low income will be hit worst by the warming and related effects.

As the urban heat island effect increase to warm cities across the world, it is worth noting that the cost of cooling the cities will increase especially because it is energy dependent (fossil fuels) and indirect emissions charge of about 2,070 million tons in 2050. Sadly, air conditioning in order to cool the city homes alone would result to an estimate of 0.5 degrees celcius global warming by around 2100.

Why cool the cities? Nairobi

Studies indicate that by around 2050 68% of the world’s population will be habiting the urban centres. This will have an impact on land use changes which will lead to increased urban heat island effect to a greater extent. 

If the warming increases, by 2070 one out of three people in the world will be living in hotter conditions of average temperatures 29 degrees celcius annually, a rare condition that exist in less than 1% of the world today majorly around saharan africa.

Towards Green Environment In Greening Cities. A Breathe of Hope!

Actually, about 2.3 billion people around affluent lower middle class developing nations are likely to buy the comfort of air conditioning. But this is not an ideal situation to be comfortable with.

Since 2019, Towards Green Environment believes in changing the story in the vast warming Nairobi city and its environs. But the solution is not air conditioners, they are expensive, unsustainable and invaluable. 

The warming climate and the urban heat island in our cities can be dealt with by only one technology. It is as simple as a tree yet people and the government have not been recognising the role played by the green spaces in the productivity of our city and combating the urban heat island. In Nairobi for instance, there has been massive tree felling and degrading green spaces such as Uhuru Park just to mention but a few.

Towards Green Environment believes that by planting nearly 20 million trees, the earth, and its population will be provided with 260 million more tons of oxygen. Those same 20 million trees will also remove the 10 million tons of CO2. This prompted us to begin planting trees in the informal settlements of the city otherwise known as the isolated grey mambas or jungles to provide citizens and the future generations with hope of green life and spaces which have since been dipleted.

With limited resources, Towards Green Environment has managed to plant over six thousand trees with 2500 trees planted in 2021 alone under the initiative dubbed “Tunakuja Mtaa Yako and The Principle of Youths In Urban Centres”. In 2021 alone, over 12 youth groups within the city were mobilised through donation of seedlings enabled by Towards Green Environment to support conservation and climate action.

An AfterThought 

Today you have a choice. Tomorrow is not guaranteed, we must make a bold step to a sustainable world, cities and communities. Planting and growing a tree is the technology we have. But it is not enough to just plant a tree but to send good will and hope to people already choked by the warming cities.

There is nothing left of us but to continue with the quest to green our cities and create awareness in the community about the detrimental effects of global warming and climate change. As we step into 2022, our dedication remains to instill the Principle Of Youths In Urban Centers to take the lead in greening our city through growing trees and having knowledge about climate change.

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