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Top 10 Greenest Cities in the World

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This week, DualCitizenLLC came out with the 4th edition of the Global Green Economy Index, an in-depth look at how 60 countries and 70 cities are doing in developing more environmentally friendly economies, in actual performance and in how experts perceive their performance. We already took a look at the top ten countries—Scandinavia, take a bow! Now we're going to check out the world's ten greenest and most sustainable cities. Scandinavia, an encore! Four of the 10 cities are located in that Nordic region.

Amsterdam has more bicycles than people.
Photo credit: Shutterstock

1.  Copenhagen. Rated one of the world's most livable cities, the metropolis of nearly two million people is known for advanced environmental policies and planning, with its goal to be carbon-neutral by 2025 and Cleantech Cluster of more than 500 companies. City infrastructure is designed to be conducive to bicycling and walking rather than cars.

2. Amsterdam. Everyone rides bicycles in Amsterdam and has been doing it for decades. It's one of the most bicycle-friendly cities in the world, due in part to its compactness and flatness, as well as its bike infrastructure, including protected paths, racks and parking. The city has more bicycles than people.

 3. Stockholm. Stockholm was the EU's first city to win the European Green Capital Award. With coordinated environmental planning that began in the ’70s, ample green space and a goal to be fossil fuel-free by 2050, it's one of the cleanest cities in the world.

4. Vancouver. Vancouver is densely populated and expensive but its moderate climate makes it a highly desirable place to live. So does the fact that it's the cleanest city in Canada and one of the cleanest in the world.

5. London. One might night think of foggy Londontown as a green city but the town has actively worked to leave its bleak, early Industrial Revolution image behind it, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and creating more green spaces.

6. Berlin. Coming in first on the European main continent, Berlin's Environmental Zone in its city core allows only vehicles that have a sticker indicating that it meets certain emissions standards.

7. New York. New York is, perhaps surprisingly to some, the greenest large city in the U.S. Its greenhouse gas emissions are low for a city its size and its population relies heavily on its extensive public transportation system. The city itself has put in place a green building initiative.

Singapore is actively trying to reverse the effects of rapid industrialization.
Photo credit: Shutterstock

8. Singapore. After industrialization brought heavy pollution, Asia's greenest city tackled the problem head on, creating its first Singapore Green Plan in 1992 to tackle clean water, clean air and clean land. It aims to have zero waste in landfills by the mid 21st century.

9. Helsinki. Like many Scandinavian cities, Finland's capital encourages bicycle use and public transportation. The city has been working toward sustainability since the late ’50s with energy efficiency programs and an aggressive Sustainability Action Plan adopted in 1992.

10. Oslo. Norway's capital rounds out the four Scandinavian cities in the top ten. The city government has its Strategy for Sustainable Development which includes an aggressive program to protect its natural surroundings. Its Green Belt Boundary protects wild areas from development.

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The last time San Francisco did not record a drop of rain in February was in 1864 as the Civil War raged.

"This hasn't happened in 150 years or more," said Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at UCLA's Institute of the Environment and Sustainability to The Guardian. "There have even been a couple [of] wildfires – which is definitely not something you typically hear about in the middle of winter."

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On Thursday, the U.S. Drought Monitor said nearly 60 percent of the state was abnormally dry, up from 46 percent just last week, according to The Mercury News in San Jose.

The dry winter has included areas that have seen devastating fires recently, including Sonoma, Napa, Lake and Mendocino counties. If the dry conditions continue, those areas will once again have dangerously high fire conditions, according to The Mercury News.

"Given what we've seen so far this year and the forecast for the next few weeks, I do think it's pretty likely we'll end up in some degree of drought by this summer," said Swain, as The Mercury News reported.

Another alarming sign of an impending drought is the decreased snowpack in the Sierra Nevada Mountain range. The National Weather Service posted to Twitter a side-by-side comparison of snowpack from February 2019 and from this year, illustrating the puny snowpack this year. The snow accumulated in the Sierra Nevadas provides water to roughly 30 percent of the state, according to NBC Los Angeles.

Right now, the snowpack is at 53 percent of its normal volume after two warm and dry months to start the year. It is a remarkable decline, considering that the snowpack started 2020 at 90 percent of its historical average, as The Guardian reported.

"Those numbers are going to continue to go down," said Swain. "I would guess that the 1 March number is going to be less than 50 percent."

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center forecast that the drier-than-average conditions may last through April.

NOAA said Northern California will continue deeper into drought through the end of April, citing that the "persistent high pressure over the North Pacific Ocean is expected to continue, diverting storm systems to the north and south and away from California and parts of the Southwest," as The Weather Channel reported.

As the climate crisis escalates and the world continues to heat up, California should expect to see water drawn out of its ecosystem, making the state warmer and drier. Increased heat will lead to further loss of snow, both as less falls and as more of it melts quickly, according to The Guardian.

"We aren't going to necessarily see less rain, it's just that that rain goes less far. That's a future where the flood risk extends, with bigger wetter storms in a warming world," said Swain, as The Guardian reported.

The Guardian noted that while California's reservoirs are currently near capacity, the more immediate impact of the warm, dry winter will be how it raises the fire danger as trees and grasslands dry out.

"The plants and the forests don't benefit from the water storage reservoirs," said Swain, as The Mercury News reported. "If conditions remain very dry heading into summer, the landscape and vegetation is definitely going to feel it this year. From a wildfire perspective, the dry years do tend to be the bad fire years, especially in Northern California."

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