Mapping the World’s Urban Population from 1500 – 2050
In 133 BC, Rome was the first city to hit a population of one million people.
While that number might seem small now, the truth is that modern megacities are just a blip in the long timeline of human history.
Today’s interactive data visualization from Our World in Data maps out how many people have lived in urban areas over time, as well as the powerful economic pull of cities after the Industrial Revolution.
Shifting Human Geography
The stages of urbanization can be roughly broken into two parts.
1500s – 1900s
Most people lived an agrarian life until the first Industrial Revolution. The urban population quadrupled over this lengthy timeframe, from 4.1% to 16.4%.
Urbanization accompanied the moves away from agricultural employment, but it was still a slow burn until the 20th century.
1900s – Present
The expansion of the global economy and population saw urbanization skyrocket along with it. The urban public leaped from 16% to 55% today, a trend which comes from both births within urban areas and rising human migration out of rural areas.
This turning point between the centuries becomes pretty clear when we look at the population shifts relative to each other:
What Defines An Urban Area?
While this widely cited data comes from the United Nations, many researchers suggest that the actual numbers are much more dramatic.
Why is there a discrepancy? It turns out that the definition of an urban population varies widely around the world. The UN figures are based on nationally-defined urban shares – but the thresholds and metrics used to calculate these are not uniform. Here are just a few examples:
|Argentina||Localities with 2,000 inhabitants or more.|
|Australia||Significant Urban Centres representing concentrations of urban development with 10,000 inhabitants or more.|
|Belgium||Communes with 5,000 inhabitants or more.|
|Canada||Areas with 1,000 inhabitants or more and at least 400 inhabitants per square kilometre.|
|Iceland||Localities with 200 inhabitants or more.|
|Japan||Cities defined as shi (A municipality that is 50,000 inhabitants or more); 60 per cent or more of the population engaged in urban type of business.|
|Netherlands||In the present publication, municipalities with 20,000 inhabitants or more.|
|United States of America||Territory that meets minimum population density requirements and with 2,500 inhabitants or more.|
Cities That Never Sleep
In 1950, two-thirds of the global population lived in rural areas, but this distribution will be reversed in a matter of decades. Almost 70% of the world will live in urban areas by 2050.
In total, 2.5 billion people could be added to global urban areas by 2050, and a whopping 90% of this increase will take place in Asia and Africa.
By the time the dust has settled, large portions of the urban population will be concentrated in megacities, which are areas defined as having 10 million or more inhabitants. These are projected to be the top 10 megacities by the middle of the 21st century:
|City||Country||2010 Population (millions)||2050 Population (millions)|
The Hydrogen City: How Hydrogen Can Help to Achieve Zero Emissions
Cities are drivers of growth and prosperity, but also the main contributors of pollution. Can hydrogen fuel the growth of cities with clean power?
In the modern context, cities create somewhat of a paradox.
While cities are the main drivers for improving the lives of people and entire nations, they also tend to be the main contributors of pollution and CO2 emissions.
How can we encourage this growth, while also making city energy use sustainable?
Resolving the Paradox
Today’s infographic comes to us from the Canadian Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association and it outlines hydrogen technology as a sustainable fuel for keeping urban economic engines running effectively for the future.
The Urban Economic Engine
Today, more than half of the world’s population lives in cities, and according to U.N. estimates, that number will grow to 6.7 billion by 2050 – or about 68% of the global population.
Simultaneously, it is projected that developing economies such as India, Nigeria, Indonesia, Brazil, China, Malaysia, Kenya, Egypt, Turkey, and South Africa will drive global growth.
Development leads to urbanization which leads to increased economic activity:
The difficulty in this will be achieving a balance between growth and sustainability.
Currently, cities consume over two-thirds of the world’s energy and account for more than 70% of global CO2 emissions to produce 80% of global GDP.
Further, it’s projected by the McKinsey Global Institute that the economic output of the 600 largest cities and urban regions globally could grow $30 trillion by the year 2050, comprising for two-thirds of all economic growth.
With this growth will come increased demand for energy and C02 emissions.
The Hydrogen Fueled City
Hydrogen, along with fuel cell technology, may provide a flexible energy solution that could replace the many ways fossils fuels are used today for heat, power, and transportation.
When used, it creates water vapor and oxygen, instead of harmful smog in congested urban areas.
According to the Hydrogen Council, by 2050, hydrogen could each year generate:
- 1,500 TWh of electricity
- 10% of the heat and power required by households
- Power for a fleet of 400 million cars
The infrastructure requirements for hydrogen make it easy to distribute at scale. Meanwhile, for heat and power, low concentrations of hydrogen can be blended into natural gas networks with ease.
Hydrogen can play a role in improving the resilience of renewable energy sources such as wind and solar, by being an energy carrier. By taking surplus electricity to generate hydrogen through electrolysis, energy can be stored for later use.
In short, hydrogen has the potential to provide the clean energy needed to keep cities running and growing while working towards zero emissions.
The 100 Tallest Buildings in New York City
This visualization plots out the tallest buildings in New York City, as well as a few in the pipeline that will change the Big Apple’s skyline forever.
The 100 Tallest Buildings in New York City
If you go to the Big Apple, the city’s signature skyline can make quite an impression.
The fact is, New York City has over 6,000 high-rise buildings in total, 274 of which are skyscrapers standing over 492 ft (150 m) tall. It’s an impressive portfolio of real estate, putting NYC as the number two destination globally for such towers, only behind Hong Kong.
But while some of the buildings have dominated the skyline seemingly forever, it’s also a landscape that is changing fast. New projects coming online will be among the city’s tallest, and they will dramatically alter any view of Midtown of Lower Manhattan for future onlookers.
A List of NYC’s Tallest Buildings
Today’s infographic comes to us from Liberty Cruise, and it shows the tallest buildings in New York City.
Here are the individual profiles of the current top ten:
|Rank||Building Name||Height||Completion Date|
|#1||One World Trade Center||1,776 feet (541 m)||2014|
|#2||432 Park Avenue||1,396 feet (426 m)||2015|
|#3||30 Hudson Yards||1,268 feet (387 m)||2019|
|#4||Empire State Building||1,250 feet (381 m)||1931|
|#5||Bank of America Tower||1,200 feet (366 m)||2009|
|#6||3 World Trade Center||1,079 feet (329 m)||2018|
|#7||53W53||1,050 feet (320 m)||2018|
|#8||Chrysler Building||1,046 feet (319 m)||1930|
|#9||The New York Times Building||1,046 feet (319 m)||2007|
|#10||35 Hudson Yards||1,009 feet (308 m)||2018|
Two of the biggest skyscrapers, the Chrysler Building and the Empire State Building, were erected during the Great Depression and still crack the top ten list today.
The Chrysler Building was actually the first skyscraper ever to be built at a height exceeding 1,000 feet. Meanwhile, the Empire State building, which was finished one year later, was the “world’s tallest building” for nearly 40 years.
However, as you can see, the rest of the buildings on the top ten list are more recent builds. It’s a testament to how fast the skyline of New York City has changed even in the last decade.
Towers in the Pipeline
But that’s not all, because the skyscraper boom in NYC hasn’t ended yet. The following megatowers are closing in on completion, and will displace many at the top of the current list:
111 West 57th Street
This building is set to be operational in mid-2019, and it’s already very noticeable on the NYC skyline. With a height of 1,428 feet (435 m), it will be the “skinniest” skyscraper in the world when completed, with a width-to-height ratio of 1:23.
Central Park Tower
This building, which was designed by the same people who did the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, will be the tallest building in the country by roof-height when done in 2020. It will clock in at 1,550 feet (472 m), making it the most sky-high residential building in the world.
45 Broad Street
With a height of 1,200 feet (366 m), this new building in Lower Manhattan is expected to be completed by 2021. If it were finished today, it would tie the Bank of America Tower for the fifth spot on a list of tallest buildings in the city.
This massive building will be the fourth tallest in the city when completed in 2021. Standing at 1,401 feet (427 m), it will have a highly anticipated observation deck set 1,000 feet above the ground.
Want to visualize more data about the Big Apple?
Check out this animation, which shows the population pulse of a Manhattan workday.
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