It’s no secret that climate change has brought about a wide and serious impact on the health of our planet, and will continue to do so if our practices go unchanged. One of the ways that cities tend to contribute to climate change is by utilizing poor urban planning practices that go on to impact the spread of the city and the resources it takes up.

While the existence of cities can cause issues in itself, the issue of urban density is often one of the primary concerns for improving how cities function on the resources they need. Here are just a few of the important things to know about the way urban density and city planning can impact climate change.

The Impact of Cities

Before discussing the impact of specific styles of urban planning, it’s important to acknowledge the impact of cities as a whole, as the urbanization of many spaces inevitably has the potential to cause damage. Even though denser cities tend to be the best way to plan for highly populated areas, the existence of urban cities in the first place is a hallmark of negative climate impact.

Urban areas contribute to deforestation, carbon emissions, and wildlife displacement at much higher rates than other areas, which goes without saying in most cases. And although efforts like community gardens and green spaces can help, cities as a whole tend to eat up a lot of resources.

Urban Density in the Fight Against Climate Change - An aerial view of Tokyo
Urban areas contribute to deforestation, carbon emissions, and wildlife displacement at much higher rates than other areas

What Is Urban Sprawl?

Even though cities tend to contribute to climate change regardless, the issue of urban sprawl is one of the major factors in the carbon footprint of urban landscapes.

Urban sprawl is defined as the uncontrolled expansion of urban areas, which usually results from the expanding population and building of spaces in and around metropolitan areas. Usually, this comes along with poor public transportation options, unbalanced areas within the cities themselves, and poor city planning.

Essentially, urban sprawl takes up unnecessary space and utilizes more resources as a result. Not only does this use more land, but it also requires people to own more cars and drive more, as things tend to be farther apart.

Upzoning and Multi-Family Homes

Some of the ways in which this issue can be mitigated are through the process of upzoning and the use of multi-family homes. Multi-family buildings and homes are a concept that many are already familiar with, so it makes sense to utilize them in urban planning situations.

By renovating existing spaces for more use and planning more multi-family properties for future buildings, cities can help control urban sprawl. Upzoning is another way that both city planners and builders can help control urban sprawl, through the process of utilizing skyspace – similar to large metropolitan cities like New York.

Upzoning is all about building up to conserve space in cities rather than building out and contributing to urban sprawl.

Global Impact

One of the most important pieces of urban planning and fighting climate change is recognizing the global impact and the ways that urban sprawl and urban density work globally – especially in developing nations. Often, the most affected cities when it comes to the impact of climate change are the most vulnerable places and populations that have the least access to necessary resources.

Things like health care, clean water, and safe living conditions are more difficult to rectify when they’re compromised by climate change in developing countries. That’s part of why it’s so important to mitigate climate change everywhere – because it is, on the whole, a global cause that impacts everyone differently.

What Better City Planning Can Do

Although it is often difficult to adjust for growing populations and changes in environments – like economic factors, weather conditions, and other trends that can impact urban living patterns – better city planning can help fight climate change in a variety of ways.

By mitigating urban sprawl, and building better infrastructure and public transportation, cities can begin to scale back on their contribution to climate change. Right now, cities cover less than 1% of the world’s surface, but house 50% of the population and generate about 75% of the global total carbon emissions – and that statistic can be reduced.

Evelyn Long

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1 Comment

  1. Dear Evelyn Long,

    It’s nice to read the articles you wrote.
    The categories or concepts you are mentioning are the same or very similar
    that/to the ones I have imagined for more than many years.
    – Sorry, I’m an elderly. –
    Actually, as you might have done lot, I have had drawn
    a variety of sketches of such kind of buildings, houses and metros
    though those are simple and at primary level and mostly shown
    only in my mind as for most of my time I had to have been engaged
    in my other business as my job.

    I hope someday we can talk together more
    about future cities, earth surfaces.

    I wish you good luck !

    Soo Haeng, Lee

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