In a recent paper published in the Science of the Total Environment journal, BC3 researchers Celina Aznarez and ARIES team members Sudeshna Kumar and Alba Márquez Torres explore the disparities in heat vulnerability and their implications for environmental justice. 

Exposure to heat poses a formidable challenge in urban environments, presenting uneven health and environmental impacts across diverse urban landscapes. The study explores supply-demand mismatches for the ecosystem service (ES) of urban temperature regulation to dig into the disparities in heat vulnerability and their implications for environmental justice.

Integrating a multidimensional approach, remote sensing, health, and socio-demographic data with cutting-edge ARIES technology and geographical information systems were combined.

The aim was to compute composite indicators at the census tract level, elucidating urban cooling supply and vulnerability to heat as a measure of demand. This holistic analysis unfolded within the context of Vitoria-Gasteiz, a mid-size city in the heart of the Basque Country.

Mapping relative mismatches allowed us to discern and analyze their correlation with socio-demographic and health factors. The findings unearthed profound disparities in heat vulnerability, with heightened exposure evident among socio-economically disadvantaged communities, the elderly, and individuals grappling with health issues.

Celina Aznarez

Ecosystem services modeller, BC3, ICTA

Empowering effective urban heat risk planning requires not just developing models, but also generating results intelligible to policymakers and local experts. It’s the key to turning data into actionable strategies for heat resilient cities.

Sudeshna Kumar

Urban modeller, BC3

On the contrary, areas associated with higher income levels exhibited lower ES mismatches, indicative of superior temperature regulation supply and diminished heat vulnerability.

These revelations underscore the urgent need for nature-based heat mitigation interventions, with a particular focus on socio-economically disadvantaged communities. By prioritizing these vulnerable groups, we can forge more equitable and resilient urban ecosystems, fostering environmental justice and supporting community well-being.

Having data open, available and accessible to citizens is essential for decision making and action.

Alba Márquez

Geospatial scientist and fire risk modeller, BC3

The study represents a crucial step towards unraveling the intricate dynamics of urban heat vulnerability and advancing strategies for equitable and sustainable urban development. 

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