The topic of climate change is one that is fiercely debated politically, but not scientifically. The world is changing, and it is getting warmer. Some deny the warming, and some are still unconvinced that climate change is the result of pollution. Nonetheless, humanity has a tremendous impact on the health of the world’s ecosystems, and urbanized areas certainly factor into that. Just how do major cities affect the environment?
Major cities have several immediate impacts on the world’s environment, and they happen in different forms of pollution. Air pollution is most commonly noticed and has a lot of effect on the entire globe. Power utilities and vehicles generate a lot of pollution across big population centers, which not only damages the local air, but goes on to affect the air on other continents.
Heat pollution is another big one. When a city has most of its surface area covered by pavement, structures, and other man-made things, the sun’s light is not bounced off the ground. The heat is absorbed into the pavement, and if you check a local weather report, you might notice that temperatures in and around a city can be as much as 8 degrees higher than the surrounding countryside. This is called the ‘urban island’ effect.
While not discussed as much, noise and light pollution also happen, and while they don’t harm people so much, they do mess things up for many animal species. Wastewater and trash generation are also issues.
Having said all this, not all the effects of major cities on the environment are bad ones. Urban centers can mean mass transit, which reduces pollution, and as centers of culture and economic activity, they can be the springs of support for green initiatives as well as the dollars needed to fund research into electric cars and solar panels.