Traffic in Jakarta is as serious as it’s ever been, and yet global warming seems to have no impact on the rat-race of Asia. It seems to be happening all over the place — in China, India and South Korea, as well as in neighboring Singapore and even Canada. This is a whole lot of traffic, and, for now, it’s just part of the commute.
Of course, pollution is an issue in all of those places — it always has been — but the environmental crisis is coming closer and closer to our doorstep every day, and some experts say we may not be able to keep living in our current urban environment.
Swaths of Asia’s major cities are growing bigger every day, and it’s getting hard to breathe, and it’s not a coincidence. The world’s major population centers are a major source of the world’s pollution.
“Once again, the biggest threat to global climate is the major cities of developing countries that continue to generate the largest amount of greenhouse gas emissions,” James Hansen, head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, told the United Nations Environment Program. Hansen said these urban centers should be able to grow only as fast as they can with minimum pollution, and at the same time, they should be developing new technology to reduce the pollution they do create.
“As long as we have the dirty, hazardous, degraded economy of globalized economic growth in the richest countries of the world, we can’t make global climate changes and we can’t slow down global warming,” Hansen said.
“It’s the urban and coastal cities that will be bearing the greatest burden of global warming,” and their populations will grow in lockstep with the pollution, and yet these kinds of cities will continue to grow if things go on as they are, experts say. This will further flood cities with deadly levels of pollution and, ultimately, drive people out.
The U.N. Environment Program said in a report that the populations of large Asian cities — such as New Delhi, Beijing and Tokyo — will balloon by 10 percent by 2025.
And then there are all the coastal cities of the Mediterranean. Some experts say they are on the verge of becoming dead zones of ocean pollution — with wide-ranging implications for ocean life.
“We’re losing our oceans. Once we begin losing the oceans — they’re going to change,” Ben Schreiber, the founder of the nonprofit Ocean Conservancy, told The Washington Post. “I’m a beach guy. That’s where I can see what’s going on and I can take care of it and I can make sure that it stays a place that you can spend your life on. And that’s really threatened now.”
Climate scientists are warning that some of the world’s biggest cities — the only places where so many people are clustered in such a small space — could become toxic environments, destroying wildlife and making it impossible for humans to live in those cities. In these places, pollution from these urban areas is far worse than any other place in the world.