Urban heat poses greatest health threat

Climate change and the resilience of cities is another key planning challenge that is confronting cities, claims landscape architect Professor Elizabeth Mossop, Dean of Design Architecture and Building at Sydney’s University of Technology.

Mossop has also been involved in the post-hurricane reconstruction of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, and the ongoing revitalisation of Detroit in the United States.

“Mitigating the effects of urban heat islands through increased tree canopy and vegetation, for example, is necessary to avoid heat-related public health issues and the economic implications of increased energy use,” she says.

Urban heat islands are built-up areas that are significantly warmer than their rural surroundings due to human activities, and often experience increased temperature differences of up to 3.7 degrees celsius.

“Contrary to popular belief our greatest public health threat is heat,” says Mossop.

“As things heat up more and more, the issues become increasingly acute and that is what we, as planners, are faced with at the moment.”

Mossop says planners are becoming more influential, working alongside local authorities and key decision makers to tackle the challenging issues.

“Our creative problem-solving is needed to help with complicated questions around urban population growth, sustainabilty, resilience, and how cities influence issues of social justice. We need to be creative in how best to use new technology and advancements.”