According to the ETH University in Zurich, in 30 years London will be as hot as Barcelona.

How far away is 2050? If asked out of the blue we might say it’s too far off to even begin to picture what it’ll be like unless there was someone out there to guide our imagination.

Luckily for us, there happens to be someone out there, or better, a group of someones. Researchers from the ETH University in Zurich have forecasted that the sidewalks of Milan are going to get as toasty as the streets in the hottest corners of South America. The group states that by 2050 global warming will mean that hundreds of cities will end up looking (or better, feeling) a lot more like cities along the Equator.

The impact of this phenomenon will be significant, both for the planet as well as for its inhabitants – that means all of us.

Getting public opinion to understand climate change

Scholars and researchers start from an important vantage point: the scientific world knows and understands a lot more about climate change than the general public does.

For example, 97% of scientists agree that global warming is the result of human action, but that number plummets when the general public is polled. But it isn’t a question of ignorance. According to researchers, the so-called Consensus Gap is caused by science itself, which hasn’t been able to effectively communicate its findings.

world energy consumption for space cooling in buildings

In light of this situation, the authors of the study saw an opportunity that was a long time coming: find a simple and quick way to communicate the most important concepts of climate change in order to stimulate positive reactions from the general public.

The methodological basis of the study

1. Selecting the cities
The cities selected for analysis are the 520 largest urban centers in the world, according to the LandScan High Resolution Global Population Data Set (2016), published by the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The cities are administrative capitals or cities with more than 1,000,000 inhabitants.

2. Analysis of climate conditions
The researchers reviewed the latest climate grid available from Worldclim, selecting 19 current and future bioclimatic variables, including:

  • annual averages;
  • seasonal metrics;
  • monthly highs in relation to precipitation and temperature.
cooling house cause a warming planet

Analysis shows that the variables with highest incidence are those that regard:

  • seasonal temperatures
  • the lowest temperature in the coldest month
  • the highest temperature in the hottest month
  • the seasonal nature of precipitation
  • precipitation during the driest month
  • precipitation during the wettest month
  • the range of daytime temperatures

Research results and general considerations

Research shows that the meteorological conditions of the cities analyzed will be similar to other cities found 1,000 km farther south, close to the Equator. The northernmost cities will be the hardest hit by this shift. Europe will experience hotter summers and winters by 3.5° and 4.7°C respectively.

Madrid will be similar to Marrakech. Living in London will feel like living in Barcelona. Stockholm’s climate will be like Budapest, and Moscow will feel like Sofia.

cooling house cause a warming planet

European cities will experience a rise in temperatures of 3.5°C in the summer and 4.7°C in the winter. Cities in tropical areas won’t see such significant changes in terms of temperature, but they will experience a consider increase in precipitation, which will become increasingly more intense and violent.

Environmental migration

Another trend that emerges from these studies is that people living in the north will likely move farther south towards the tropics, while those living in tropical cities will head towards dryer areas.

Can you imagine those immense arctic areas in Russia being made habitable by climate change in 2050? Mass waves of migration could pose a further threat to the health of our planet.
We’ve got to stay alert.

Taking these forecasts to heart

“These city analogues, and the data we openly share, can help land managers and city planners to visualize the climate futures of their respective cities, facilitating efforts to establish targeted climate response strategies.” (https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0217592)

We stand behind the work of these researchers, and pledge to do our part to reduce the Consensus Gap. We are working to encourage companies to adopt measures for the responsible use of cooling systems, which have a significant effect on atmospheric warming. It’s a good place to start building the foundations for a cooler 2050.