Student Fellows

Book Chapter
Smith, Todd G.

Climate change and its potential effects are increasingly important concerns to the scientific community, governments, international organizations, and exposed populations around the world. No region of the world is unaffected by climate change but residents of urban areas in Africa are particularly vulnerable. This vulnerability stems from high rates of urbanization coupled with poor urban planning, gaps in public services and infrastructure, settlement in hazard-prone areas, and high levels of poverty, illiteracy, and poor health but also to low adaptive capacity and high vulnerability to climate-related hazards such as flooding, drought, and sea level rise.

This chapter examines the capacity of governmental systems, with an emphasis on large cities in Africa, to prepare for and respond to climate change and increased exposure to climate-related hazards, especially urban flooding, sea level rise, and water scarcity. The chapter is organized around two primary questions: (1) How will the consequences of future climate change affect people living in African cities and what determines the vulnerability of these exposures? (2) How does the development of initiatives to build urban resilience to climate change vary across urban areas and what factors explain the variation?

Local government plays a key role in in developing resilience and addressing urban vulnerabilities through the provision of local infrastructure and public services, promulgation, and regulation of land use and building codes, and other local services. While many countries have developed, or are developing, national climate adaptation plans, efforts to address adaptation at the local level are frequently challenged by a lack of collaboration between multiple local government jurisdictions with limited capacity. The chapter adopts a comparative case study approach based on field research on the governance systems in a set of African cities: Accra, Alexandria, Cape Town, Casablanca, Dakar, Dar es Salaam, Johannesburg, Kampala, Luanda, and Maputo.

Wilson, R. H., Smith, T. G. (2016). Urban Resilience to Climate Change Challenges in Africa. In K. Archer K. Bezdecny (Eds.), Handbook of Cities and the Environment. Northampton: Edward Elgar Publishing.
Research Topic: 
Climate Change
Urban Affairs and City Management
Urban Policy and Housing