With the release of the newest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and US National Climate assessments, the threats from climate change are in the headlines more than ever. While the broad projections of these reports are bleak, perhaps the most tangible threats are those facing our cities. Recent events such as Hurricane Sandy in the US and flooding in the Balkans have highlighted the devastation that water can cause in thriving urban areas. In this context, water is both an essential resource and a looming threat. The newest reports reveal that extreme weather events will become not only more frequent but also more severe in the coming decades. Cities will have to deal with greater flooding and longer droughts while, at the same time, managing increased service demands from rapid growth. These warnings are particularly disconcerting for intermediate and secondary cities (according to the World Bank, those with fewer than one million people). With limited capacities, and bearing the brunt of population growth, these urban areas will struggle the most to adapt to changing conditions. Luckily, innovative planners in places like New York and Rotterdam are beginning to prepare creatively for future problems. By considering water as a security issue rather than simply an ecological one, cities are moving beyond climate theory and towards proactive policies for an increasingly urbanized world.
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