Impact of Global Warming on City Expansion


Global warming, also known as the greenhouse effect, refers to the increase in the average temperatures of the earth near the surface, air, and oceans (Hansen, 2005). This is mainly attributed to accumulated concentrations of greenhouse gases (GHG), which consist of methane, carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and water vapor in the earth’s atmosphere specifically in the ozone layer. The concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is the result of human-related activities, like smoldering smokes, deforestation, and the rapid process of industrialization.

Due to the high GHG concentrations, the rate of global warming has significantly increased and so have been the adverse effects of global warming in the world. Global warming has effects on human beings, the environment, and civil infrastructures. In the world today, the impact of these changes brought about by global warming can be seen in the cities and towns around the world whose development has been significantly curtailed.

The basic purpose of this Literature Review is to explain how the occurrence of global warming has affected the economies of various cities in various countries around the world, notably the cities of Denver, Colorado, and Shanghai, China. The effects of global warming have impacted both social and infrastructural developments including other factors such as agriculture and forestry activities, water resources, human settlements, and human health which have been hard hit by global warming (Gore, 2008).

Studies done by William (1992) on cities around the world are made to establish the effect of climatic alteration on factors, such as energy supply, ground air, and sea haulage. Colorado released the greatest amount of greenhouse gases. In particular, in 1990 it had already started deducing strategies that could be effectively applied to reduce levels of Green House Gases. According to statistics, Denver and Shanghai are the highest contributors of GHGs to the atmosphere followed by other cities like London and New York.

Impact on environment

The study also looks into the effects on stream, water dispensation, and supplementary factors in major cities around the world that are considered heavy polluters (among them the Cities of Denver and Shanghai). William’s study clearly distinguishes these cities as amongst the worlds’ most polluted, with other major cities being only a fifth of their GHG levels. Therefore, such sources of water cannot be used to sustain the water requirements of the city as doing so would be hazardous to the city and its industries hence there is a shortage of water and water resources in the City. In addition, the cities vegetation has withered out due to lack of precipitation and harmful gases in the air that is toxic to them (American Chemical Society, 2009).

In Shanghai, the community infrastructures, such as landfills, water and sewer systems, electrical installations, and buildings, have been adversely affected by global warming. Permafrost has constantly attacked the city’s civil infrastructures resulting in damages and expensive repairs. This has hindered the development of this city, not only Shanghai but also other cities as inhabitants have relocated to more favorable cities or stopped with their development agendas. A city like Shanghai whose environment is very cold and has a lot of glaciers has been affected by the increased temperatures; the glaciers are melting at a high rate making the city prone to floods and other adverse natural disasters (National Research Council, 1983).

Impact on civil infrastructure

The effects of global warming have been overwhelming in the development and infrastructural growth of many cities in the world (EPA, 1989). The average temperature in Shanghai has doubled from what was there in the 1950s. Due to this, many cities’ civil infrastructure that was initially constructed to the specifications of the prior average temperatures have been destroyed, become obsolete, or have started wearing out.

This has been occasioned by irregular expansion and contraction of the building materials, due to sporadic change in temperatures hence wearing down of the infrastructure. In addition, the cost of construction has become very expensive as building materials can sustain the extreme temperatures, therefore, resulting in to use of expensive building materials that have made the real estate business decline since they have been forced to incur extra expenses in its construction ventures due to the necessity to use more durable materials that are very expensive. Consequently, they tend to shy away from the real estate business as the profit margins have been significantly reduced (Ibboston & Garry, 1987).

Impact on the transport system

Robert (2004) observes the adverse impact of global warming on transport and road networks. Due to the increased temperatures, the materials used in the construction of the road expand and contract unevenly than how they were designed to when they were initially constructed, thus making them wear out faster. Therefore, many repairs have to be conducted frequently, though this has not put to rest the problem permanently as the temperatures keep on rising and regenerating the whole process (Sheldon, 1992).

In Denver and Shanghai, the rail system has also been affected by the rise in temperatures as the railway tracks buckle under the extreme temperatures hence paralyzing the rail system and in other cases causing severe accidents (EPA, 1989). Due to this, transportation across the city has been constantly interrupted resulting in a transport system that is inefficient and the city residents becoming immobile.

Impact on water, sewers, and sanitation

The water and sanitation systems of many cities have constantly been interrupted, particularly in Denver where this problem has been experienced rampantly. These interruptions have resulted from extreme weather conditions which have either blocked the system or resulted in mechanisms that cannot sustain the water cycle. The extreme temperatures have resulted in crystallizing participles in the piping system of the water system, hence blockages and constant bursting of the pipes. In addition, the unpredictable climatic conditions have interrupted the water cycles hence, an unbalanced water cycle (Nas, 1991).

Denver and Shanghai cities have large populations and several industries that rely heavily on water; however, the level of water in the city reservoirs has constantly been decreasing while the usage daily by the city increases. This is a result of inconsistent rains and high temperatures that resulted in the drying up of the natural water resources in the cities. Therefore, the city inhabitants can no longer sustain their daily water consumption and also the industries. The above effects of global warming have directly affected the GDP of Shanghai and its civil infrastructure as well (Hansen, 2005).

Impact on the energy sector

The energy sectors in both cities have also suffered immensely due to global warming. Freeman (1979), examines the temperature levels in cities in contrast with their environs and has established that Denver in the US and Shanghai in China were significantly warmer than their surroundings with extreme temperature inversion differences in the nighttime rather than in the daytime. This phenomenon becomes can be explicitly viewed during the air fluctuations.

Another impact of this urban heat is the high amounts of energy consumed by air conditioners and refrigerators in such relatively hot regions. It is estimated that the annual expenditure on energy in Denver is close to $100 Million; consequently, during winter the opposite will occur as the winters will become very cold, and thus more energy will be required to heat the city’s inhabitants and other industrial systems.

Impact on the piping systems

U.S. Arctic Research Commission (2003) observed that the pipeline system that serves Denver has constantly been interrupted due to the adverse effects of global warming. The system is constantly encountering numerous permafrost soil and varied temperatures. Due to this, the city has undergone a lot of expenses as it tries to counter this problem which grounds the TAPS system whenever it occurs. Due to the unreliability of the TAPS, a lot of the city’s residents have relocated as well as the thriving industries that were established there (NAS, 1979).

In conclusion, global warming has adversely affected the development and expansion of cities across the world, with the highest impact been more advanced on the civil infrastructure of the cities. Mendelssohn, William & Daigee (1993) notes this with the worst affected being Denver Colorado, and Shanghai.

Reference list

American Chemical Society, (2009). Denver To Barcelona: Global Cities And Greenhouse Gas Emissions. Science Daily, 41(1), 21-40.

EPA. (1989). The Potential Effects of Global Climate change on the United States: Report to Congress. Washington DC, US Environmental Protection Agency, 52(8), 23-60.

Freeman, M. (1979). The Benefits of Environmental Improvement. Baltimore, Resources for the Future. New York: John Hopkins University Press.

Gore, A. (2008). World Changing: A User’s Guide for the 21st Century. New York: Abrams.

Hansen, J. (2005). Efficacy of climate forcings. Journal of Geophysical Research, 30(9), 110-181.

Ibboston, K., Roger, G., & Garry, P. B. (1987). Investment Markets. New York: McGraw Hill.

Mendelssohn, R., William D. N., & Daigee, S. (1993). Measuring the Impact of Global Warming on Agriculture. Cowles Foundation Discussion, 10(45), 197-209.

NAS. (1991). Policy Implication of Greenhouse Warming: Report of the adaptation panel. Washington, DC: Springer.

National Research Council. (1983). Climate Change. Washington, DC: Washington Academy Press.

Robert J. N. (2004). Coastal Megacities and Climate Change. Geojournal: Earth and Environmental Science, 37(2), 369-379.

Sheldon, U. (1992). The Rise and Relative Decline of Global Warming as a Social Problem. The Sociological Quarterly, 3(6), 483-501.

U.S. Arctic Research Commission. (2003). Impact on Infrastructure in Alsaka. Arctic Research Commission, 37, 369-379.

William, R. C. (1992). The Economics of Global Warming. Journal of global warming, Institute of International Economics, 5, 82-130.

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