Can we cool warming cities?

Read the full post at JSTOR Daily.

Researcher Julie Donner led a Berlin-based team in a study to determine how cities are addressing the issue of urban heat hazards. While most EU development projects are legally bound by climate change legislation, her team asked if the extant climate action plans were more focused on mitigation (the reduction of greenhouse gases) or adaption (implementing measures such as increasing urban vegetation or open spaces).

Donner’s team selected twenty-four of Germany’s most densely populated cities and evaluated their climate plans. The team found that though climate is at the forefront of all the plans, the suggestions and action points tend to focus on carbon emissions and mitigation, with less attention given to heat and adaptation. Adaptation strategies such as upgrading housing insulation make few appearances in the plans. On the other hand, seventeen cities recognize the importance of “fresh air corridors that safeguard an air exchange between cooler air from the outskirt areas and the warmer urban air.” This positive is unfortunately counterbalanced by the low number (eight) of plans that consider adaption strategies such as albedo enhancement (increasing light-colored surfaces and reflectivity). Natural and synthetic updates in this area could keep homes—and people—cooler without requiring additional air conditioning.

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