Glasgow’s public health impact fears from flooding and climate change

GLASGOW is facing increased flooding and heat stress due to climate change which will have detrimental effects on public health and social equality, according to a World Health Organisation’s Health and Climate Change Urban Profile.

Scotland’s largest city is one of six front-runner cities from around the world being profiled by WHO for their plans on mitigating and adapting to climate change.

Working with Glasgow City Council Glasgow and Glasgow Centre for Population Health, the document put together by WHO highlighted projections for the Clyde river basin estimate that rainfall from October to March will increase by up to 42% by 2050 if greenhouse gas emissions remain high and that the River Clyde poses a significant flooding risk to 32% of the total city area, as current sea levels are expected to rise by approximately 50cm by 2080.

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The urban profile gives a snapshot of key climate change hazards and health risks as well as measures Glasgow is taking.

The report says 45,200 homes, businesses and services are considered at risk of flooding in the council area and is predicted to increase to 57,000 by 2080 due to the impact of climate change.

HeraldScotland: Climate change risks to public health have been highlighted by WHO reportClimate change risks to public health have been highlighted by WHO report

It added poor health and the high prevalence of mental health disorders makes the population particularly vulnerable to these impacts. Of all Scottish councils, Glasgow has the highest number of people with mental health disorders.

Glasgow’s housing infrastructure is unprepared for ever-increasing temperature rise, according to the report. It’s cause for concern as heat exacerbates existing illnesses, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and ischemic heart disease, both of which are among the top five illnesses causing premature death in Glasgow.

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However, measures Glasgow is taking to mitigate and adapt to the changes that the city is experiencing were highlighted.

The profile provides examples of Glasgow’s priorities and initiatives that protect the climate and environment while having a direct health benefit, at a local level.

HeraldScotland: Glasgow’s Low Emission Zone was highlighted for its contribution to improving air quality and public health Glasgow’s Low Emission Zone was highlighted for its contribution to improving air quality and public health

It highlighted Glasgow’s Low Emission Zone, that came into force at the end of May and its contribution to improving air quality and public health and surface water and drainage projects to manage and minimise risk of flooding.

It also hails the adoption of nature-based solutions and tree planting projects in Glasgow and the wider city region to mitigate the impacts of carbon emissions in the atmosphere and provide shade, while offering areas for people to enjoy and contribute to their health and well-being.

Dr Maria Neira, WHO Director of Environment, Climate Change and Health, said: “City councils have the power to change our lives for the better. They can address inequality, improve people’s health, and tackle the climate crisis at the same time. The WHO Urban Profile illustrates how Glasgow is leading the way to a healthy, sustainable future.”

The profile comes as the council’s Central Administration Committee looks to adopt the Climate Adaptation Plan 2022-2030, for the city, next week. The plan looks at interventions and solutions for dealing with the current effects of climate change experienced in the city, and those predicated in the future, such as overheating and more flooding.

Over the next nine years The Glasgow Green deal, launched last year during COP26, will also work to achieve a fairer and more equal economy through taking action on climate change that impacts unfairly on the lives of the most vulnerable in the city.

WHO is launching Health and Climate Change Urban Profiles for six pilot cities. In addition to Glasgow, to date the project has published profiles for Indianapolis, Indiana and Washington, D.C.

Councillor Angus Millar, Glasgow’s City Convener for Climate, Glasgow Green Deal, Transport and City Centre Recovery, said: “This look at our city, by WHO, raises awareness about the immediate health threats from climate change that we, and many other cities like ours, face.

“Well over half the world’s population lives in cities, and many people rely on them for their health and well-being so it is important that they are at the forefront of the action to mitigate and adapt to these climate change shocks and longer-term stresses.

“Glasgow is striving alongside other cities around the world in tackling the climate emergency, and this profile highlights the broad range of work the Council and its partners are undertaking to improve the quality of life for our citizens through climate action.

“Projects like the city centre-based Avenues project, our strategic drainage and surface water management activity, and initiatives to promote greenery and biodiversity like the Wee Forests are all making a difference now – and we will only see the pace of action accelerated over the next few years as we deliver on Glasgow’s ambitious climate plan.”

Bruce Whyte, Glasgow Centre for Population Health, said; “This profile illustrates the challenges that climate change brings for Glasgow as well as the existing health and social inequalities the city faces. It also demonstrates initiatives Glasgow has in place that address both climate change and health and well-being that we can learn from.

“The profile will be an important reference for informing continuing efforts to adapt to and mitigate climate change impacts and will support the transition to a more inclusive, healthy and sustainable city.”

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