Climate change research will help local planning departments

Posted on Wednesday 26th May 2010

Award-winning pioneering work by academics at the University of Birmingham could have a dramatic influence on how Birmingham City Council copes with extreme weather situations.

A team of specialist meteorologists and climatologists has developed a risk-mapping tool to help planners understand how extreme weather patterns and climate change could impact on communities across Birmingham.

Professor John Thornes, Dr Lee Chapman and PhD student Charlie Tomlinson at the University’s School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences and Professor Chris Baker from the School of Civil Engineering have used ground-breaking remote sensing and geographical information systems (GIS) techniques that will allow departments across the Council and Birmingham Environmental Partnership (BEP) to target services in at-risk areas.

They worked closely with Birmingham City Council and BEP to ensure that the revolutionary work can be used practically by the organisations.

The project has been so successful it picked up a prestigious Local Authorities Research and Intelligence Association (LARIA) award last month and has contributed to the City Council being awarded a further £62,000 from the Technology Strategy Board and Natural Environmental Research Council to undertake further research with the University of Birmingham.

The work is already having an impact on mainstream planning policy at Birmingham City Council, which is using the model to identify climate risks in specific areas and to provide a local perspective on the potential impact of extreme weather at hyperlocal levels.

Professor Thornes said: ‘This approach to understanding the risks and vulnerabilities at a neighbourhood scale is critical to Birmingham’s commitment to adapting to climate change.

‘Crucially, through overlaying environmental risk and socioeconomic vulnerabilities in this way, Birmingham City Council is able to achieve ways of implanting adaptive measures to counter the risk of heat or flood-prone areas.’

There is already considerable interest in the work from across the UK and globally. A paper outlining the key points of the work was presented to a Sustainable Cities for the Future conference in Australia last November.

Sandy Taylor, Head of Climate Change and Sustainability at Birmingham City Council, said: ‘This award underlines our commitment to tackling the issue of sustainability and reconfirms the strong track record of delivery that we have.

‘I congratulate everyone involved with this project, which is helping make an improvement to the quality of life enjoyed by citizens across Birmingham.’

Councillor Paul Tilsley, Deputy Leader of Birmingham City Council, said: ‘This research is critical for Birmingham’s commitment to prepare for a changing climate, enabling us to understand how climate change will affect our diverse communities and ultimately direct us in developing practical action in the worst affected areas.’

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For further information

Kate Chapple, Press Office, University of Birmingham, tel 0121 414 2772  or 07789 921164.