Climate change projections for sustainable and healthy cities

Clare Goodess, Sarah Berk, Satyaban Bishoyi Ratna, Oscar Brousse, Mike Davies, Clare Heaviside, Gemma Moore, Helen Pineo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)
8 Downloads (Pure)


The ambition to develop sustainable and healthy cities requires city-specific policy and practice founded on a multidisciplinary evidence base, including projections of human-induced climate change. A cascade of climate models of increasing complexity and resolution is reviewed, which provides the basis for constructing climate projections—from global climate models with a typical horizontal resolution of a few hundred kilometres, through regional climate models at 12–50 km to convection-permitting models at 1 km resolution that permit the representation of urban induced climates. Different approaches to modelling the urban heat island (UHI) are also reviewed—focusing on how climate model outputs can be adjusted and coupled with urban canopy models to better represent UHI intensity, its impacts and variability. The latter can be due to changes induced by urbanisation or to climate change itself. City interventions such as greater use of green infrastructure also have an effect on the UHI and can help to reduce adverse health impacts such as heat stress and the mortality associated with increasing heat. Examples for the Complex Urban Systems for Sustainability and Health (CUSSH) partner cities of London, Rennes, Kisumu, Nairobi, Beijing and Ningbo illustrate how cities could potentially make use of more detailed models and projections to develop and evaluate policies and practices targeted at their specific environmental and health priorities.

Practice relevance

Large-scale climate projections for the coming decades show robust trends in rising air temperatures, including more warm days and nights, and longer/more intense warm spells and heatwaves. This paper describes how more complex and higher resolution regional climate and urban canopy models can be combined with the aim of better understanding and quantifying how these larger scale patterns of change may be modified at the city or finer scale. These modifications may arise due to urbanisation and effects such as the UHI, as well as city interventions such as the greater use of grey and green infrastructures. There is potential danger in generalising from one city to another—under certain conditions some cities may experience an urban cool island, or little future intensification of the UHI, for example. City-specific, tailored climate projections combined with tailored health impact models contribute to an evidence base that supports built environment professionals, urban planners and policymakers to ensure designs for buildings and urban areas are fit for future climates.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)812-836
Number of pages25
JournalBuildings and Cities
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 30 Sep 2021

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