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Climate change? Yes, but not only – Disentangling the contribution of socioeconomic pathways to future climate risks in urban areas

Student:Guillaume Rohat
Timeline:December 2016 - 30 November 2020

There is an increasing need of understanding and assessing future climate risks, particularly in urban areas, where people and assets are concentrated and where the combination of socioeconomic development and climate change will put human beings and socio-ecological systems under the highest pressure in the coming decades. In addition to the need of understanding the main drivers of future climate impacts, there is also a considerable need of designing potential adaptation options and pathways aiming at decreasing future vulnerability and increasing resilience.

 Assessing future climate risks – which are function of climate exposure, socioeconomic sensitivity, and socioeconomic adaptive capacity – is associated with a number of challenges, particularly when looking at heat stress risks in urban areas. These challenges largely explain the fact that, until now, the overwhelming majority of assessments of future urban heat stress risk are based on future climate conditions superimposed on current socioeconomic conditions only, instead of future ones. Hence, these risks assessments do not account for the significant influence that different socioeconomic development pathways may have on future climate risks.

 In order to address this issue and to foster the consideration of future socioeconomic conditions within assessments of future climate risks, the climate change research community has recently developed a new scenario framework, enabling various combinations of both climate and socioeconomic scenarios to assess future climate risks. However, because of the novelty of such approach, tools and methods to make this framework applicable for heat stress risk assessments in urban areas remain to be explored and developed. This PhD research is part of such effort.

 In particular, this PhD research aims at (1) developing methods to contextualize global scenarios at the local level, by matching them with existing local scenarios, (2) exploring and developing tools and methods to quantify a wide range of socioeconomic drivers that matter when it comes to heat vulnerability, at various spatial and temporal scales, (3) determining the role that different socioeconomic pathways play in shaping future heat stress risk in Europe, in large African urban areas, and in Houston (Texas), and (4) operationalizing the scenario matrix architecture to assess the efficiency of adaptation options under multiple plausible futures.


Figure – Scenario matrix architecture to assess future climate risks under combinations of climate and socioeconomic scenarios and to explore the contribution of mitigation and adaptation in reducing future climate risks.

Meet the team

G.T. Rohat (Guillaume)
Graduate Student M.F.A.M. van Maarseveen (Martin)
dr. J. Flacke (Johannes)
Research theme
People, Land and Urban Systems

In PLUS research, people are our focus. Everyone is included, from societal thought-leaders, to government policy makers, to high-level civil society advocates – through to entrepreneurs and citizens, including the disenfranchised. These people are our collaborators, our participants, our beneficiaries, our users. PLUS focuses on understanding the spatial information needs of society and responding to those needs in responsible ways – as tools, as systems, as infrastructure, or as ways of thinking. Our work sits at the nexus of urbanization, land tenure, governance, climate change, and transportation – and the grand challenges of sustainability and social equity in the age of the anthropocene.

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