Scientists have spent three years analysing the best and worst case scenarios for climate change across hundreds of European cities, in the largest study of its kind ever undertaken. 

And the predicted impact by the year 2050-2100 , in every outcome, is worse than previously thought. 

The research, according to the team from Newcastle University, highlights the “urgent need” to adapt our cities to cope with future weather conditions. 

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The study analysed changes in flooding, droughts, and heatwaves across every European city, using all climate models. 

For flooding, the worst hit European capitals would be Dublin, Helsinki, Riga, Vilnius, and Zagreb, reported the Guardian. Stockholm and Rome could see the greatest increase in the number of heatwave days, while Prague and Vienna could see the greatest increase in maximum temperatures during heatwaves.

Meanwhile, Lisbon and Madrid are among the worst affected by the frequency and magnitude of droughts. And Athens, Nicosia, Valletta, and Sofia could see the worst increases in both drought and heatwaves.

The British Isles have some of the worst overall flood predictions — in the worst case scenario, half of UK cities could see at least a 50% increase on peak river flows.

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Researchers produced results for three possible outcomes: low, medium, and high-impact scenarios. 

“The research highlights the urgent need to design and adapt our cities to cope with these future conditions,” said co-author Prof. Richard Dawson.

“We are already seeing at first hand the implications of extreme weather events in our capital cities,” he said. 

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He cited Paris, which saw the Seine rise more than 4m above its normal water level in recent flooding, and Cape Town, which is seeing a drastic water shortage. 

“This analysis highlights that such climate events are feasible in European cities too,” he added. 

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The report, published in the “Environmental Research Letters” journal, found that in the worst-case scenario, some British and Irish cities could see flood waters as much as double per flood.

Cork, the worst affected, could see 115% more water per flood, and Derry could see 99% more. Wrexham, Carlisle, Glasgow, and Chester could all see increases of over 75%. And, according to the report’s low-impact scenario, 85% of UK cities that have a river would see increased flooding.

For heatwaves, the report found that all 571 cities in the study would see an increase. 

Central European cities saw the greatest increase in temperature during heatwaves — between 2C and 7C for the low scenario, and between 8C and 14C for the high scenario. And the worst case scenario would see some areas of southern Europe experiencing droughts 14 times worse than today — a scenario described by lead author Selma Guerreiro as “beyond breaking point.” 

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“Furthermore, most cities have considerable changes in more than one hazard, which highlights the substantial challenge cities face in managing climate risks,” Guerreiro added. 

The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change will meet for its first cities and climate change science conference next month — to tackle the important issue of the role cities have to play in the fight against climate change. 

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Defend the Planet

‘Urgent Need’ to Adapt Cities to Future Climate Change Conditions

By Imogen Calderwood