A master plan on how major cities must respond if they are to continue to grow in the face of climate change has been outlined in a three-year project led by Newcastle University.
Using the new UK Climate Predictions '09 data for weather patterns over the next century, the research looks at the impact of predicted rises in temperature - particularly in urban areas - increased flooding in winter and less water availability in summer.
AdvertisementThe report "How can cities grow whilst reducing emissions and vulnerability" focuses on the particular challenges facing London, but can be used as a model for other UK cities on how policy-makers, businesses and the public must work together to prepare for climate change.
As well as protecting our homes and buildings against the increased threat of flooding from rising sea levels, the report emphasizes the need to reduce our carbon emissions, reduce our water usage and move towards cleaner, greener transport.
According to Newcastle University's Dr Richard Dawson, one of the report's authors, "There's not one simple solution to this problem. Instead, we need a portfolio of measures that work together to minimize the impact of climate change while allowing for our cities to grow."
"Most importantly, we have to cut our carbon dioxide emissions but at the same time we need to prepare for the extremes of weather - heat waves, droughts and flooding - which we are already starting to experience," he said.
"Heat waves like the ones being predicted to occur more frequently in future are extremely serious, particularly for the eldest members of our population," said Dr Dawson.
"To combat the problem, we often resort to switching on the air conditioning. This is not only energy intensive, but works by cooling the inside of the building and expelling hot air outside, raising the overall air temperature in the city as well," he said.
"This can amplify what is known as the 'urban heat island'," he added.
To reduce this problem, the authors show that one option might be to stimulate growth along the Thames flood plain as the water helps to keep the overall temperature lower.
"The problem then is that you are building in the flood plain so you have to prepare for a whole different set of challenges," explained Dr Dawson.
"Houses built on stilts, flood resilient wiring where the sockets and wires are raised above flood level, and water resistant building materials are going to have to be incorporated into our building plans," he said.