January 30, 2018 / 2:05 PM / 4 months ago

U.S. cities most menaced by climate change are least energy-efficient

NEW YORK, Jan 30 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Miami and other U.S. cities most at risk from disasters exacerbated by global warming are also among those whose high energy consumption is fuelling temperature rise, data from clean-energy company Arcadia Power showed on Tuesday.

The coastal city of Miami, battered last year by Hurricane Irma, was the least energy-efficient in a sample of 15 cities, with its monthly energy consumption 25 percent above the national average, the data showed.

Such cities are “shooting themselves in the foot” because their immoderate energy consumption emits avoidable greenhouse gases that are heating up the planet and causing climate change, said a statement from Arcadia.

The Florida city averaged energy consumption per household of 1,125 kilowatt hours (kWh) per month, far exceeding the 2016 national average of 897 kWh.

Miami’s above-normal usage could be due to the hot and humid city’s heavy reliance on air-conditioning, which is energy-intensive, said Arcadia spokeswoman Natalie Rizk.

Burning fossil fuels, including to generate electricity, is one of the lead causes of climate change which scientists agree will make freak weather such as Irma more powerful.

Miami’s vulnerability to the destructive force of wild weather was evidenced last September when large swathes of the city were flooded as Irma barreled into south Florida.

Atlanta and Phoenix are other cities experts often describe as the country’s most vulnerable to extreme weather made worse by climate change, and whose energy consumption far surpassed the national average, according to Arcadia’s data.

Arcadia’s ranking was based on the electricity consumption of its customers, who number some 70,000 nationwide.

Though the company’s customers are renewable energy users, its data likely approximated behavior by households dependent on fossil fuel-generated energy, Arcadia said.

The new figures provide a unique insight into electricity consumption at a city level, said Rizk.

Johanna Partin, director of the Carbon Neutral Cities Alliance, said the findings should serve as a “wake-up call”, pushing city officials to adopt more stringent energy-saving measures.

“Even if they’re doing a great job in going gang-buster on installing energy efficiency, they’re going to have to do a lot more of that,” she said by phone from San Francisco.

Improving energy efficiency is touted by supporters of the 2015 Paris Agreement to tackle climate change as a key way to meet the pact’s tough goals to limit global temperature rise.

From the European Union to New York City, lawmakers have taken steps in recent months to promote the energy efficiency of buildings, for example. (Reporting by Sebastien Malo @sebastienmalo, Editing by Megan Rowling; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit news.trust.org)

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