A new project backed by European funding is seeking to understand how cities and people are influencing the urban climate and vice versa.
The Urbisphere project will look at the influence of people’s activities, and how changing neighbourhood designs, transport technologies or increasing flexible working hours could help manage the consequences of a changing environment.
The project is backed by €12.7m from the European Research Council (ERC).
Professor Sue Grimmond, an urban meteorologist at the University of Reading said: ‘More than half of the world’s population live in cities and this is forecast to increase in the coming decades. If you want to address climate change, you’ve got to do it in our cities.’
‘Through this project, we will be investigating the interaction between cities and their urban climates and how changes to one will influence the other.’
With city populations set to increase rapidly and a growing elderly population, researchers say that better urban planning will be crucial to help vulnerable people to deal with hazards like pollution and heat.
Urban planners often try to make new buildings match existing ones in a neighbourhood, but the researchers say that a new approach could be part of the solution to some climate hazards in the future.
For example, air circulation could be boosted by placing tall and short buildings next to one another and using a mixture of light and dark coloured materials could help to remove trapped heat and polluted air from street level.
The research team will use London as an experiment. Groups of residents will be given wearable sensors to track their exposure to air pollution, with an array of thermal sensors attached to tall buildings to understand how the city heats up and to identify pollution and thermal hotspots.
In related news, by 2050, emissions in cities could be slashed by 90% if policymakers and businesses adopt more low carbon measures and seize the opportunities presented by climate change.
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