GCU research calls for climate-sensitive cities to prevent overheating

15 February 2017

Professor Rohinton Emmanuel

Professor Rohinton Emmanuel

Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) researchers have warned that increasing use of air conditioning will add to the global warming problem and bring further heat extremes to the already warm tropical areas in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

Researchers estimate that, in Sub-Saharan Africa, unprecedented heat extremes will cover an increasing percentage of land area as global warming intensifies from 2 to 4 °C, resulting in significant changes in vegetative cover and drought events. In Southeast Asia, heat extremes are expected to cover nearly 60–70% of land area in summer, even under a 2 °C global warming scenario.

In the journal Urban Climate, GCU’s Professor Rohinton Emmanuel highlights the importance of developing new means of ‘climate-sensitive’ urban design to manage rising temperatures rather than exacerbating the problem with air cooling.

With air conditioning systems providing less exposure to heat, our bodies can fail to acclimatise physiologically to summer conditions. They can also increase ‘Heat-Island’ phenomena, where the temperature of the central area of a city becomes high because of an increase in artificial heat exhausted from buildings.

Professor Emmanuel proposes a new way of making cities cooler through climate-sensitive design, including creating ‘canyon-like’ shopping streets with rows of buildings providing adequate protection from rain and sun; gathering places located near urban waterfronts; and new networks of pedestrian links independent of the city streets. These would feature shaded pathways, strategically placed and adequate vegetation cover and water misting.

Professor Emmanuel said: “In our increasingly urbanised world, most people will experience the effects of climate change in cities. This is particularly so in the tropical world, where the effect of local warming super-imposed on the regional and global warming, will make urban life intolerable. It is therefore essential that cities are planned in a climate-sensitive manner to act as the first line of defence against the negative consequences of a warming world.”

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