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Reducing urban heat wave risk in the 21st century

Fernandez Milan, Blanca; Creutzig, Felix

Global warming increases the frequency, intensity and duration of heat waves, particularly endangering urban populations. However, the health risks of heat waves are distributed unequally between people because of intrinsic person-specific characteristics and extrinsic factors. The confluence of forecasted urbanisation and projected heat wave increase necessitates the identification of strategies that both lower the overall health impact and narrow the gap in risk distribution within urban populations. Here, we review the literature on vulnerability to heat, highlighting the factors that affect such distribution. As a key lesson we find that the literature strands on public health, risk reduction and urban planning all contribute to the identification of alleviation options for urban heat wave health impacts, but that they are rarely jointly evaluated. On the basis of the literature review, we suggest a common framework. We also evaluate response measures in addressing total and distributed risks. We find that person-specific risk is effectively addressed by public health and risk reduction intervention, while intra-urban variations of extrinsic factors can be efficiently tackled with urban planning, both in scale and scope.
Published in: Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, 10.1016/j.cosust.2015.08.002, Elsevier