1. Home
  2. Climate Change
  3. What It Takes to Turn Cities Into Bulwarks Against Climate Change
What It Takes to Turn Cities Into Bulwarks Against Climate Change

What It Takes to Turn Cities Into Bulwarks Against Climate Change


Grownups look straight past the nuts and bolts of the city. Power lines and drainage grates go unseen. But my 8-year-old notices, even those up above the row houses. “Look at that,” Felix says, “there’s one with solar panels.”

It’s a forerunner of the next city that he sees—the resilient cities we’re going to have to figure out how to make before a third grader is old enough to vote. “One day, son ,” it’s tempting to reply, arm sweeping over the residential blocks, “all of this will be solar panels!” And it will, too, because what’s the alternative?

Give the rooftops over to clean electricity and heat-absorbing shrubs. Let the lampposts double as charging points for cars, buses, and bikes. Supplant the paved paradise with something that doesn’t flood quite so fast. (There’s more in Kim Stanley Robinson’s essay on cities as survival mechanisms.)

The solar paneling of everything is so unstoppable that a pandemic couldn’t deter businesses, whether in Baltimore or Abuja, from selling more. After another record year for installations, the world will carry on with an even bigger buildout in 2021. Jenny Chase, head of solar for clean-energy researcher BloombergNEF, has forecast that as much as 194 gigawatts will be added—more than enough to power a whole Brazil. By 2022, new solar might equal a Germany.

But anything moving at breakneck speed—even one of the best hopes against climate change—can also cause damage. This boom has its own predatory capitalists, marketing subprime solar to low-income homeowners. Then there’s the reality that China wants no one to see: The essential raw material for solar panels, polysilicon, is inextricably bound to alleged repression of the Uyghur population in the northwest region of Xinjiang. This solar surge could be a human-rights nightmare.

That’s the trick with resilient futures. Building back better has to start with seeing all the ways people can get hurt.

Source: Bloomberg
Anand Gupta Editor - EQ Int'l Media Network