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Cities first in line to feel devastating effects of climate change: experts

LONDON--The world's cities face the brunt of climate change but some are starting to respond vigorously to the threat, experts say at a conference here staged ahead of the June Rio summit.

More than half of the world's population of seven billion currently lives in cities and by 2050, this is expected to increase to 70 percent, or around 6.4 billion, according to U.N. figures.

More than 60 percent of the increase will occur in Asian cities — and nearly half of the growth will happen in cities that currently have 500,000 inhabitants or fewer.

It means that cities will face unparalleled challenges when climate change starts to bite, scientists said Monday at a meeting on the world's environment ahead of the June 20-22 summit.

“Cities are emerging as first responders. They are on the frontline, both in the cause and effect of climate change,” said Cynthia Rosenzweig, who heads the Climate Impacts Group at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

The hazards facing cities are many.

By 2100, or sooner, heatwaves, droughts, storms and floods are expected to become more frequent and last longer. Cities built on deltas or on the coast will face rising seas, which threaten homes and drinking water.

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