What makes a city ‘smart’ in the Anthropocene? A critical review of smart cities under climate change


In recent years, smart cities have grown in popularity, both in research and in practice. The focus of smart city studies and policy initiatives has historically been on technology, particularly how information and communication technology can be leveraged to improve city functions. This focus has begun to shift towards sustainability, with many researchers calling for the development of smart, sustainable cities, which can aid efforts of climate change mitigation and adaptation. The connection between smart cities and climate change, however, is not clear. In this review article, we aim to synthesize the recent literature surrounding smart cities and climate change, and to discuss the benefits (or costs) of smart cities with regard to climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts. In particular, we focus on five key aspects of urban resilience to climate change: infrastructure, public health and well-being, accessibility and equity, sustainable systems, and governance. The literature reveals a higher level of emphasis on infrastructure resilience to climate change than the other categories. Moreover, the research areas differ in the level of connection between smart city initiatives and climate change adaptation and mitigation efforts. For example, within the critical infrastructure research area, studies on smart energy systems focus on climate change mitigation, particularly reducing emissions, while studies on smart water systems emphasize adaptation to future floods and droughts. Going beyond the aforementioned research areas, we discuss the role of big data in smart cities, including the benefits and challenges associated with collecting large amounts of data from smart technology, as well as the techniques needed to analyze such data. Finally, we highlight future directions that we believe the research on smart cities needs to focus on, based on the results from our literature review. These include infrastructure and disaster resilience, public health and social equity, and sustainability.

Publication Type
Journal Article
Roshanak Nateghi
Sustainable Cities and Society