Heat stress in summer as well as more frequent extreme rain events are already a reality in the Stuttgart region, and will occur more often in the future as a result of climate change. A new research project led by Prof. Jörn Birkmann at the University of Stuttgart intends to show what the city and the region need to do to prepare for such events. The project was officially launched on August 17, 2020.
The heatwave over the last few weeks, which saw temperatures of above 38°C in the Stuttgart region and across Germany as well as heavy rainfall is proof that it is becoming more and more important for cities to adapt to climate change in order to be able to function. According to information from the Baden-Württemberg State Statistical Office, around 1700 people died due to high temperatures in summer 2019 alone. To maintain the residential quality and the quality of life in the Stuttgart region, as well as its security and competitiveness as a polycentric, highly dense area with strong economic growth, adapting to meet the impacts of climate change is essential. In order to achieve this, the relevant parties – especially those working in urban and regional development – need information on how climate change will have an impact on a local level, what the long-term consequences will be as a result, and what options are available for taking action.
Adaptation check for both the city and the region
Against this context, the joint project ISAP (“Integrative City-Region Adaptation Strategies in a Polycentric Growth Region”) will spend the next three years developing a quantitative adaptation check among other things which will also take the synergies between cities and the surrounding areas into account. For this purpose, ISAP is developing a new and innovative city-regional online information and advisory system together with the Verband Region Stuttgart (the political entity of the Stuttgart Region) and the City of Stuttgart, which will include city-regional information and analysis instruments such as climate data and scenarios on climate change and land-use change as well as on social vulnerability. This information makes it possible to identify and substantiate the necessary adjustments to be made. An extreme rainfall risk map for the city and the region is also being developed.
ISAP’s project partners include the Institute of Regional Development Planning at the University of Stuttgart (Prof. Jörn Birkmann, project leader), the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), the German Institute for Ecological Economy Research (IÖW) in Berlin, the German Institute of Urban Affairs (Difu) in Cologne as well as the Verband Region Stuttgart and the City of Stuttgart. The project is being organized by the German Aerospace Center (DLR). The Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) will provide the project with around two million euros in funding over the next three years.
“You can’t combat heat stress just by using air-conditioning"
“Heat stress, extreme rainfall events and drought can already be seen in the Stuttgart region today. This is why we need to adjust to our changing climate and plan and develop appropriate prevention strategies for the city and the region,” emphasizes project leader Jörn Birkmann. “You can’t combat heat stress just by using air-conditioning indoors, because that uses even more energy. When it comes to taking precautions against extreme rainfall events as well, we need information about the dangers posed by extreme rainfall and the vulnerability of residents and infrastructure.”
“The City of Stuttgart has had a section for urban climatology for a long time, because the challenges faced by Stuttgart as a result of climate change are particularly great. Important approaches have already been developed, but the ISAP project also provides new approaches for quantitatively assessing adaptation measures and improving the coordination between approaches at municipal and regional level. For us, as well as the additional expertise, another advantage of being part of this project is that the BMBF also directly provides us with personnel resources for carrying out our work”, adds Rainer Kapp, head of the Section for Urban Climatology at the Office for Environmental Protection of the City of Stuttgart.
Thomas Kiwitt, Chief Technical Director at the Verband Region Stuttgart, underlines the central advisory function that his organization plays for the municipalities in the region. “The last climate atlas was already very helpful as a basis for planning and making decisions. As part of the ISAP project we now want to bring the offer up to date, as well as expanding it and then digitalizing it. This should improve the important advisory service we provide to the municipalities.”
An intense exchange at national and international level ensures that the results are not just usable for the Stuttgart region but also for other regions.