GLASGOW'S poorest communities need green spaces to combat the effects of a dramatically rising climate, experts have said. 

Researchers at the Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) have found that Glasgow's climate will be "very similar" to that of smoggy London by 2050 and have called for investment in green spaces to combat climate change's worst effect. 

They identified overheating and flooding as the major risks facing the city and say that trees, parks and meadows absorb rainwater and heat, which would mitigate the effects of rising temperatures and would provide a bulwark against flooding. 

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Professor Tahseen Jafry, Director of GCU’s Centre for Climate Justice, said: "Without an equal spread of green infrastructure, the negative effects of climate change will disproportionately impact the most vulnerable in society, especially those in deprived areas of Glasgow. The poorest often bear the brunt of climate change and it is this climate injustice that this research aims to address.” 

The work was undertaken by PhD student Makanjuola Majekodunmi and co-supervised by Professor Rohinton Emmanuel, Director of GCU’s Beam Centre, and Professor Tahseen Jafry, Director of GCU’s Centre for Climate Justice.

Professor Rohinton Emmanuel, an expert in city planning and sustainability, said: “We have mapped where the benefits of green infrastructure currently are in Glasgow and where the most deprived places are, in order to highlight the mismatch between them. We also applied this model to flooding prevention, too. We found a great deal of disparity.

“Our work, as a visual presentation, shows city planners the potential benefits of green spaces and the areas where these benefits are most needed. The City Council says it will now include this research in its current programme. If you increase tree cover by 20%, you could eliminate a third to half of the expected urban heat increase by 2050. This sort of intervention is well worth considering.” 

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The report identified the North East of the city as one of the most at-risk areas but noted that residents might oppose building parks and green spaces due to associations with anti-social behaviour. 

Professor Emmanuel added: “The North East of Glasgow was identified as being particularly in need, especially around the locks. We are now conducting further research among the residents of this area, as we believe the idea of more parks and trees may not necessarily have universal public support – residents think these areas may act as focal points for anti-social behaviour, for example.”

This research is an adaptation of an EU programme worked on by Professor Emmanuel. His previous research shows London already has a significant over-heating problem – an unintended climate consequence of urbanisation.

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He said: “In London now, in high summer, it’s almost impossible to live and work in buildings without air conditioning. In 2003, more than 20,000 people died across Europe from the effects of a severe heatwave. Even in Glasgow, we can have street-level temperatures of 40C.

“Cutting down trees means you lose their ability to absorb heat and convert it into nutrients. Paving and tarmac quickly release the heat they retain back into the air, and rainwater has to be drained away in sewer systems, which deprives the area of the cooling effect of rain-soaked soil.”