Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Vulnerability to heatwaves and drought -- a new publication

Joseph Rowntree Foundation: Climate change will, among other impacts, bring increased risks to health and well-being from more frequent and intense heatwaves, as well as increased droughts threatening the security of affordable water supplies in the UK.

This report: introduces the concept of vulnerability to climate change within the context of social justice; examines two early case studies of adaptation in the south-west of England: the implementation of the national Heatwave Plan; and the trend towards differential water pricing based on usage (including the trial of a rising block tariff for water); and highlights the need for a more systematic consideration of current and future vulnerabilities in local, sectoral and national adaptation planning. Key points…
  • Assessments of who is 'vulnerable' to climate change are highly complex. Vulnerability is generally understood as a combination of someone’s exposure and sensitivity to climate hazards (e.g. heatwaves) as well as their ability to adapt.
  • Social vulnerability differs for heatwaves and drought: People who live in poorly constructed homes in 'urban heat islands' (where built environments retain heat), work in hot conditions, suffer ill health, are older or very young, receive low incomes and/or are disconnected from social networks are more likely to be vulnerable to high temperatures.
  • Low-income households unable to reduce their water use are more vulnerable to differential water charging, particularly those who do not qualify for support schemes. There are likely to be strong links between some existing forms of social disadvantage and vulnerability to climate change.
  • Water companies are moving away from flat rate fees to new charging models that bill customers according to water usage. This could create affordability problems for low-income households. Schemes to support vulnerable households may help to improve water efficiency while providing affordable water to all.
  • The Department of Health's Heatwave Plan details how the health and care sectors should respond to heatwaves. But it is difficult for local decision-makers to identify all who are vulnerable to high temperatures, which may limit the effectiveness of planned responses. A national cross-sectoral strategy is needed.
  • The authors conclude that decision-makers need to consider how vulnerability will change over time in order to prepare strategically and build resilience to climate change in advance, to achieve adaptation that is socially just.
Water Fountain, St Pancras Old Church, London On Sunday, July 28th 1968, in the midst of recording sessions for the White Album, The Beatles decided to spend a Mad Day Out being photographed at seemingly random locations all over London. One of the locations was this old drinking fountain at St Pancras Old Church. The fountain had originally been presented on 22 August 1877 by William Thornton. Shot by Christine Matthews, Wikimedia Commons via Geograph UK, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license

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