StadtKlimaWandel (urban climate change)

Background and Goals

The "StadtKlimaWandel" (urban climate change) project aims to promote better quality of life in cities, as the current climate is already placing a strain on city residents. The further climate change advances, the worse the strain in cities will become, unless something is done.

In various European and German cities, there are examples of measures that can have a positive influence on the urban climate and thus on the quality of life of urban residents. During the period of extreme heat in the summer of 2003, many more people fell ill than in other summers and the death rate rose significantly. This shook plenty of city mayors into life – for example in the Paris metropolis. The French capital is one of Europe's most densely populated cities. The effects of the heat were felt particularly strongly there. The city authorities responded promptly and declared the entire city centre area a green zone.

Greening is one of the easiest and most effective methods of sustainably tackling the strains in cities without undertaking major structural changes. Plants benefit the urban climate in many ways. For example, they provide more oxygen, have a pleasant cooling effect and filter dust. Anyone can get involved in greening – tenants, landlords, house and apartment owners, architects, and urban and landscape planners.

Objectives:

Adaptation measures in cities will be implemented in conjunction with local authorities, urban planners and house owners. Greening of owners' own building facades or ecological redesign of individual neighbourhoods are examples of effective adaptation to climate change in cities. The objective of the project is to come up with original and easily implemented ecological measures for Germany's local authorities, which will enable them to respond to climate change.

Content time

to

Research area/region

Country
  • Germany

Steps in the process of adaptation to climate change

Step 1: Understand and describe climate change

Approach and results 

Information on climate change will be taken from the "German Regional Climate Atlas": The climate models used there assume a significant increase in summer days (maximum temperature > 25°C) and hot days (maximum temperature > 30°C) by 2050 throughout Germany.

The other focus of the project is the special characteristics of the urban climate. The climate in a city is different from that in a natural or cultural landscape. Stone, concrete and asphalt store the energy from sunlight and warm air as heat. Tightly packed houses prevent the air from circulating. Precipitation is drained quickly through the sewers. Because most of the ground is sealed, only a small amount of water can evaporate and cool the city. Emissions from air conditioning, vehicles and chimneys heat the city air further and impair the air quality. Summer smog (ozone alarm) and health hazards due to fine dust put a strain on health.

Parameter (climate signals)
  • Heat waves
  • Altered rainfall patterns
  • Higher average temperatures
  • Extreme precipitation (incl. hail, snow)
  • Dry periods
Further Parameters 

summer days, hot days, tropical nights, humidity

Step 2a: Identify and assess risks - climate effects and impact

Approach and results 

The impact of the urban climate can primarily be felt in summer, when evening and night-time temperatures are up to ten degrees Celsius higher than in the surrounding area. This urban "heat island" causes a lack of concentration in people and has a negative impact on their cardiovascular systems. Older or sick people and young children are particularly affected. However, people who do not belong to these "risk groups" also suffer the effects of a draining urban climate. Some can bear heat but not direct sunlight, while others suffer greatly under tropical conditions with high humidity and temperatures. In general, people cope better with a moderate climate than an extreme one.

Step 3: Develop and compare measures

Measures and/or strategies 

Most strategies for improving the urban climate aim to reduce heat retention in the city, improve air exchange between the city centre, green spaces and the surrounding area, and store precipitation water as long as possible. The measures put forward by the project – such as house greening, unsealing of surfaces and heat insulation – follow these aims. Although the benefits of individual measures cannot be immediately identified, they will be effective in influencing the urban climate overall.

Measures to produce a more balanced urban climate have other beneficial side effects. Unsealed surfaces provide space for plants and animals. Green and open spaces in cities are ecological niches for specialised species. However, these measures primarily benefit people. Insulated buildings reduce the urban climate effect and help to save on heating costs and reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Journeys that can be made on foot reduce heat emissions and reduce the burden caused by noise, harmful substances and greenhouse gases.

Time horizon
  • 2071–2100 (far future)

Step 4: Plan and implement measures

Measures and/or strategies 

The project brings together examples of effective climate adaptation in cities.

Participants

Funding / Financing 

Federal Environment Agency (UBA) and Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU)

Project management 

Naturschutzbund Deutschland e. V. (NABU - NATURE AND BIODIVERSITY CONSERVATION UNION)

Contact

NABU- Naturschutzbund Deutschland e.V.
Charitéstraße 3
D-10117 Berlin

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Fields of action:
 biological diversity  building sector  human health  spatial, regional and urban land use planning  transport, transport infrastructure  water regime, water management