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J Environ Manage. 2019 Nov 1;249:109210. doi: 10.1016/j.jenvman.2019.06.111. Epub 2019 Aug 19.

Heat risk assessment for the Brussels capital region under different urban planning and greenhouse gas emission scenarios.

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Department of Environment University, Gent, Belgium. Electronic address:
Department of Geography, Ruhr-University Bochum, Bochum, Germany. Electronic address:
Unit Environmental Modelling, Vlaamse Instelling voor Technologisch Onderzoek (VITO), Belgium. Electronic address:
Department of Geography, Vrije Universiteit, Brussel, Belgium. Electronic address:
Department of Environment University, Gent, Belgium. Electronic address:


Urban residents are exposed to higher levels of heat stress in comparison to the rural population. As this phenomenon could be enhanced by both global greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) and urban expansion, urban planners and policymakers should integrate both in their assessment. One way to consider these two concepts is by using urban climate models at a high resolution. In this study, the influence of urban expansion and GHG emission scenarios is evaluated at 100 m spatial resolution for the city of Brussels (Belgium) in the near (2031-2050) and far (2081-2100) future. Two possible urban planning scenarios (translated into local climate zones, LCZs) in combination with two representative concentration pathways (RCPs 4.5 and 8.5) have been implemented in the urban climate model UrbClim. The projections show that the influence of GHG emissions trumps urban planning measures in each period. In the near future, no large differences are seen between the RCP scenarios; in the far future, both heat stress and risk values are twice as large for RCP 8.5 compared to RCP 4.5. Depending on the GHG scenario and the LCZ type, heat stress is projected to increase by a factor of 10 by 2090 compared to the present-day climate and urban planning conditions. The imprint of vulnerability and exposure is clearly visible in the heat risk assessment, leading to very high levels of heat risk, most notably for the North Western part of the Brussels Capital Region. The results demonstrate the need for mitigation and adaptation plans at different policy levels that strive for lower GHG emissions and the development of sustainable urban areas safeguarding livability in cities.

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