The City and the Coming Climate: Climate Change in the Places We Live by Brian Stone, Jr. (Cambridge University Press, 2012).
The international community is focused on carbon dioxide from fossil fuel emissions as the main cause of global warming. It is, at the global scale, but according to Brian Stone, “the primary driver of climate change in cities is not the global greenhouse effect but rather the loss of trees and other vegetative cover to development and the emission of waste heat from industries, vehicles, and buildings.” In fact, due to the urban heat island effect, cities can be as much as 12F hotter than the surrounding suburbs during summer heat waves. Yet climate scientists discount this effect because annual global mean temperature increase is the primary metric, and seasonal differences can cancel each other out.
Brian Stone, a professor of urban planning at Georgia Tech, makes the case that individuals are not powerless in the face of global climate change, because changes in the cities we live in can make a difference. For example, we know that a city-wide program of planting trees and other vegetation (on the ground or on rooftops) can offer benefits for both temperature and flood control. Stone argues that fighting overdevelopment and deforestation in your metropolitan area is just as important as negotiating a new international climate change treaty, and potentially a lot more effective.