They are often places buffeted by natural disasters and increasing changes in temperature or rainfall, where the climate seems to be a growing threat to human lives, resources and urban infrastructure, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology reported Tuesday.
In such cities local officials have been working with scientists, conducting assessments and examining which new measures may best prepare them for the future, the MIT survey found.
Ninety-five percent of major cities in Latin America are planning for climate change compared with only 59 percent of such cities in the United States, MIT researchers said.
Climate adaptation leadership "can come from cities of many different sizes and ilks," said JoAnn Carmin, a professor of urban studies and planning.
"Cities are able to make some important strides in this area.
"There are numerous examples from around the world where there are no national policies or explicit support for adaptation, but where local governments are developing plans and taking action to address climate impacts."
U.S. cities are slow to address the subject, Carmin said, because climate change is a more politically contentious issue in this country than elsewhere.
"Climate change discussion is off the table, quite frankly, more in the United States anywhere else," she said. "We are caught up over the cause of climate change, and this has led all climate-related issues to become highly politicized, undermining our potential to focus on promoting long-term urban resilience.
"This is not the case in many other countries where they take climate change as a given and are able to move forward with adaptation alongside their efforts to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions."