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  • Writer's pictureiQneiform

Climate Change will Decide the Future of Urbanisation

As the world urban population is expected to reach over 6 billion by 2045, technology will be a key to safe and resilient building

Today more humans are living in urban areas across the world than ever before. By 2030, the combined size of cities globally is expected to double. In another two decades, the number of urban dwellers is estimated to increase from the current four billion to six billion people, representing 68 percent of the global population.

As the world transitions toward extreme urbanization, cities will play a pivotal role in the future of human civilization. The evolution of metropolises might have a major impact on global issues, yet it’s likely to be the hub for its solutions as well.

The climate crisis is our biggest challenge. As urban planners envision what the future looks like, their work today will decide whether there will be a sustainable and safe future for us to live in. There is a major knowledge, expertise, and skill gap on the subject of sustainable urban development. Each facing unique challenges, planners will have to innovate or adapt to find solutions for each different scenario.

Understanding how technology will play a key role in the transition towards greener cities, and by extension a greener world.


The industrial revolution was a period of sudden shifts and major changes for humanity. The invention shifts, new technologies, and large-scale production transformed society as more and more people migrated to fast-growing cities for work. As the explosion of jobs and manufacturing took center stage across the world, this led to the advent of mega-cities.

But as technology grew along with the human population, so did its negative impact on the planet. Burning coal and oil to fuel huge industries resulted in a vast amount of pollution, and the number of urban residents increased, their demand for energy needs only resulted in more emissions. As more emissions continued to get trapped in the earth's atmosphere, the amount of heat being lost from the earth has gradually slowed. This has resulted in the earth's surface temperature has risen to about 1.8 percent, since the beginning of the industrial revolution.

This warming of the planet has changed our climate and will only get worse in the future, as patterns of rain, wind, and extreme weather become more frequent.


The stark reality of climate change has now become evident. The increasing concentration of emissions-driven greenhouse gasses has resulted in the melting of glaciers across the world, not only causing the rising of sea levels but also more intense weather systems that are wreaking havoc across the world. Global temperatures are at an all-time high and if the predictions made by scientists are correct, they are only expected to increase.

Over a billion people will be displaced, as coastal areas that constitute over 10 % of the global population presently lives less than 10 meters above sea level. Other places would be too extreme to inhabit.

As all this happens, the world's population will continue to grow, requiring much more energy to sustain itself. This will require the world to move away from fossil fuels, and find solutions to mitigate the harm they have done to our planet.

Cities are not prepared to deal with the weekly influx of new inhabitants. As cities are also one of the main centers of production and consumption and primary drivers of a country's economic growth. Experts predict that over 3 million people will move into urban areas every week. Within the next decade, the world will have over 43 mega-cities, mostly in developing countries, each with more than 10 million inhabitants. Asia and Africa will be at the core of this transition, as climate change would also have a much bigger impact on the developing countries within these continents.

As over 90 percent of the total urban centers are located in coastal areas, they will be increasingly at risk of disasters. Hence it will be essential for the future of cities to be prepared for every eventuality in order to create a safer and much more resilient form of urbanization.

According to leading climate experts, by 2030 natural disasters will result in cities spending over $314 billion each year as they will be the worst hit. This would eventually push an estimated 77 million more people into poverty, which would mean that over 1 billion people will be displaced by 2050.

Sustainable urbanization will be the key to their success. This is where technology will play a major role as asides from helping urban planners create an innovative framework, it will also help them predict and better prepare for the future to come.


Technology has been used to address all the challenges faced by urban spaces. As cities are high population and infrastructure clusters and have often served as models for the implementation of innovation and technology that civilizations depend on. But as climate change is already severely impacting the world, there is a need for technological innovation to provide immediate solutions rather than more problems in the coming years.

The future may be full of flying vehicles and mega structures that are super inclusive and connected, but one thing is clear, that they have to be sustainable, prepared against climate change, and most importantly have a negative carbon impact. One aspect that will play a major role in all of this would be data and artificial intelligence, to help interpret projections of human growth and requirements. This will also help develop cities that are better planned and human-centric.

The growth of smart cities is also driving a major change in urban planning. Although there are many ways to define a smart city, one essential point which is key includes the utilization of technology for innovation while promoting the protection of biodiversity. This means that truly smart cities are sustainable and involve their citizens in each step of their development through technologies to improve their day-to-day lives.

Curbing climate change and rising temperatures is one of the biggest challenges for cities. This would mean that the world would have to find immediate technological solutions to help move away from fossil fuels while meeting global energy demands. Following are a few climate disruptive technologies that could prepare cities for the future.


It is estimated by 2025, over two-thirds of the global population will be affected by droughts and severe water shortages. Therefore, finding a solution for clean water and sanitation will be one of the biggest challenges in the upcoming decades. This would be even more evident in developing countries where the majority of the population will be living in cities by 2050.

One way to address this in the future would be to use technology and create a circular water economy approach. This can be done by using technology to understand the risk of emerging and existing contaminants during the treatment of the water.

Understanding and managing the quality of water and the risks to human health as the water flows through the system could help us treat our water more efficiently while reducing wastage.

Low-cost water quality sensors linked with apps could help monitor contaminants through decentralized treatment solutions, and buildings of the future could themselves be self-sustained when it comes to their water requirements. And just as with energy consumption, data and apps could eventually help citizens optimize their use on a day-to-day basis.


Cities are responsible for over 60 percent of the global greenhouse emissions, which means that building sustainable cities could have a huge impact on the future of our planet. Technology today has enabled us to have access to low carbon energy materials instead of concrete and steel which could be key in reaching carbon neutrality and reduce waste. Using green materials such as bamboo, straw bales, mycelium, and cross-laminated timber could be the building blocks for future cities.

Combining this with green infrastructure could further help offset the carbon impact building have on the environment of cities. This could be done by strategically planning natural and built-up surface areas to make vast ecosystems and farms that could improve living conditions and promote sustainability. Materials used in green buildings are natural and renewable. They are obtained locally to reduce their impact on the environment.

The future of buildings is also about having mixed-used development that is designed for people. These concepts rely on modular building systems that bring residential and commercial spaces together, reducing the need to travel far and long distances. This would encourage walking, biking as well and micro-communities where people will live, work and play around the same area. They also create shared environments that are more sustainable and energy efficient. By the use of smart grids and meters could also help better manage energy consumption and demand. By building energy monitoring systems could also further help identify and monitor the amount of energy use.

The technology could also help buildings adapt and become more resilient to natural and manmade disasters. This can be done by creating smart and adaptive infrastructure that can bear the stress of such disasters.

The underground will also provide ample space, as well as low energy and building costs. Building underground eliminates the need for foundations which cuts down the costs of construction as the underground temperature is stable, reducing heating and cooling bills by 80 percent. Constructing underground may also provide more resilience to climate and disaster threats. One of the best examples of this is being presently tested in Helsinki where a subterranean city is being developed with a metro station, shopping centers, roads, and parking spaces.


Transportation contributes to the majority of the carbon emission when compared to any other sector. But the future of transportation will most likely be completely different from today and be focused on building cities that are free of cars.

With major research and development being done in the field of electric and self-driving cars, there are still possibilities of them creating emissions, unless their energy comes from a renewable or a green source.

Besides this, cars in a city make it much harder for other forms of transportation to grow. Due to this reason, the concept of cars goes against the idea of smart cities as it makes transportation less efficient. Instead, the focus has to be made on using technology to make public transport more efficient, affordable, and hassle-free, thereby reducing their carbon footprint.

An alternative would be based on the sharing economy. This is where autonomous vehicles, whether on the ground or in the sky, would revolutionize the way we travel. High-speed automated travel will also be safer and better connected. We can already see this across the world with digital platforms that provide options for car and bike-sharing apps that are becoming increasingly common.

But as this is just one area where development is happening, with the help of new data, the future could hold endless possibilities where owning a car might be a thing of the past.

Another important aspect of public transport which is increasingly being adopted across the world is to recognize bicycles as another form of future technology. Biking networks are already established in cities like Amsterdam and Copenhagen because they are clean and effective ways of transport. These cities have shown that creating bike lanes, smart parking lots as well as sharing apps can reduce carbon emissions and make the cities of the future safer and much more convenient to travel in.


Cities are major consumers of energy that compensate for over 72 percent of the global energy use and urbanization increases so will their demand which would be twice that of transportation. This would especially be more evident in high-population countries such as India and China as the growth of urban centers will require 70 percent more energy than today.

In order for the cities of the future to be substantial and support the increasing population, the focus will have to be emphasized on building green and renewable sources of energy. As buildings account for the biggest consumption of energy worldwide, the future would require them to have their own decentralized renewable sources of energy.

Solar and wind farms are already being set up across the world but the smart cities would require each of building to have its own high-performance energy generation devices. This will be done by using photovoltaic panels, windmills, and geothermal energy to harvest all the energy possible. It is in fact estimated by 2050, wind and solar will grow much faster than any other sources of energy.

With rising sea levels, another form of energy that could potentially provide energy will be wave energy. This type of energy will use movements of oceanic waves to generate electricity. As the waves move through the ocean, turbines inside the water will help generate clean electricity.

Asides from this, energy produced through human, plant and animal waste will also help these cities provide electricity and, in that way, recycle all the biodegradable waste which otherwise could further impact our planet. Biomass energy is already being used across the world, but for future cities, this kind of technology could not only help produce energy but also provide fertilizers for city farms spread across roofs and open green spaces.

The energy produced will also have to be efficiently transported, which will be done through the means of smart grids, the likes of which are already being used in countries such as Finland. These grids would not ensure zero waste of energy but will also allow the users to monitor and control their energy use.

Energy harvesting will also be a part of every surface material in these future cities, where even human movements will be used to generate electricity. The key would be efficiency which would mean increasing the generation of electricity which at the same time reduce its consumption.


If there is one thing that can have a bigger impact on the future of human urbanization, its data. The futuristic cities will be designed and powered through tools such as the Internet of things, big data and artificial intelligence. We are already a part of this movement for acquiring and processing data. This includes everything from utilizing open-sourced mapping platforms, which are helping planners design cities in the digital landscape and improve everything from human movement to street designs to improve everyday life.

As this process of analyzing data keeps getting better, analysts will be able to help improve everything from services in the city to public transportation and traffic management.

The advancement in low powered wide area networks and 5G technology, for example, will improve connectivity over vast number of devices across long distances. Combining this with urban apps will help merge alternative reality technology to make intelligent and very specific suggestions to improve the urban experience of the future. Cheap sensors, combined with the spread of mobile and high-speed internet and the miniaturization of computing technology, have opened the way for a new technological revolution.

Internet of things will also be a key for the development of smart cities and as this technology grows, it will have an even bigger impact on the way we live in the future. This will help across all sectors including urban mobility, healthcare, sustainability, energy as well as the general management of cities. Through this sophisticated interconnectivity, citizens and governments will be connected in ways never imaged before and will be a fundamental building block for the next smart cities. This data will also help track and tackle climate crises over the years.

Other aspects that would be the key for the future of human urbanization would be Artificial intelligence. Infact one way to find solutions for the future cities could be through AI and machine learning. This could help experts predict and design the cities of the future and optimize everything from spaces to human movements. With capabilities to calculate and break downs data, artificial intelligence with the help of powerful computing systems could help answer all out future and help make us plan and make better decisions.

Such technologies could also be critical in identifying challenges within cities and provide immediate solutions, that would otherwise take us years.


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