Climate change is going to revolutionize politics in cities across the world.

climate change

Rainfall in Cape Town is a dramatic affair. In the winter wet season, ominous clouds and strong winds rumble in from the northwest, carrying with them the life-saving moisture of the Atlantic Ocean and dumping it in cold buckets on the city bowl. For days at a time, storms batter and flood the city and surrounding areas, so much so that the region’s first Portuguese moniker was Cabo das Tormentas: “the Cape of Storms.” But residents accept the thrashing. They embrace it, even, because the rainy season provides all the water there is.

During one of those winter storms, I huddled in a meeting room at the University of Cape Town, catching my breath after a wet sprint through the campus, which is built into the lower slopes of Devil’s Peak. I met with the hydrologist Piotr Wolski to discuss droughts. “I don’t know the workings of the city and the workings of the water supply systems—the pipes, and valves, and how it is managed…

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