Three essential reads for adapting cities to an increasingly hotter world
Heat waves are deadly, particularly when combined with high humidity levels, which make the air even hotter. The urban island effect can have a particularly strong impact on cities. These areas are often several degrees hotter than rural areas nearby. Three articles from The Conversation archives explain how communities can adapt to climate change, which will increase the frequency and intensity of heat waves.
Cooling options are available.
Emergency cooling centers can mitigate heat waves, but cities must do more. Nick Rajkovich is an assistant professor of architecture at the University at Buffalo. He has been working with planners in Cleveland to learn how they prepare for heat waves. There are several strategies that can be used, including planting trees and shrubs to provide shade and cool down the air, weatherizing buildings using window shades, and using light-colored reflective materials.
Rajkovich believes that it is important for different agencies and organisations to communicate and work together to take complementary actions.
He observes that “in Cleveland, the preparation for extreme heat events brought professionals together to encourage overlapping approaches as no one strategy is foolproof.” Officials should “seek multiple solutions instead of looking for the ‘best’ solution.”
Upgrades for vulnerable areas
Green infrastructure is a great way to help your neighborhood withstand severe weather. Permeable paving, for example, and rainwater collection are two ways to reduce stormwater runoff and manage flooding.
Ashish Sharma , a climate scientist at Notre Dame University, has studied the use of green roofs covered with drought-resistant plants to cool urban areas. In a Chicago study, Sharma and his colleagues determined that the low-income areas on Chicago’s west and south sides would be most benefited by installing green roofs as they would become less vulnerable to blackouts.
When temperatures rise in cities, the electricity usage increases dramatically. This makes utilities more vulnerable to power outages. If the power goes out, vital services like drinking water, transportation, and health care are at risk. The poorest people are at the greatest risk, as their neighborhoods are usually the hottest.
Green roofs cool buildings by lowering the surface temperature of rooftops. Residents could reduce the use of air conditioners, saving money and relieving pressure on local power grids during peak demand times.
Green roofs are a great way to solve many problems, including runoff of stormwater, energy consumption, and climate control.
Designing Streets for a Changing Climate
In the United States, most city streets are built with drivers in mind, but pedestrians can be a distant second. But Anne Lusk, a researcher at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, calls for ” creating green streets that are safe for pedestrians, bicyclists and bus riders, as well for drivers.”
These streets would have cycle tracks and trees as their main features, allowing pedestrians and cyclists to feel secure from auto traffic. The trees will act as barriers, cooling the neighborhood and absorbing pollutants. Well-designed bike trails would reduce air pollution by removing cars from the roads.
Lusk surveyed respondents who said that the best designs were those with trees and bushes placed between cycle tracks and the street. This design blocked out traffic, reduced pollution, and also made people feel cooler. Lusk highlights ways to reduce the stress on trees caused by climate change, including redesigning drainage systems so that water is directed to tree roots.