Journal article Open Access

Characterizing Physical and Social Compositions of Cities to Inform Climate Adaptation: Case Studies in Germany

Wendnagel-Beck, Angela; Ravan, Marvin; Iqbal, Nimra; Birkmann, Jörn; Somarakis, Giorgos; Hertwig, Denise; Chrysoulakis, Nektarios; Grimmond, Sue

Cities are key to climate change mitigation and adaptation in an increasingly urbanized world. As climate, socio-economic, and physical compositions of cities are constantly changing, these need to be considered in their urban climate adaptation. To identify these changes, urban systems can be characterized by physical, functional, and social indicators. Multi-dimensional approaches are needed to capture changes of city form and function, including patterns of mobility, land use, land cover, economic activities, and human behaviour. In this article, we examine how urban structure types provide one way to differentiate cities in general and to what extent socio-economic criteria have been considered regarding the characterization of urban typologies. In addition, we analyse how urban structure types are used in local adaptation strategies and plans to derive recommendations and concrete targets for climate adaptation. To do this, we examine indicators, background data used, and cartographic information developed for and within such urban adaptation plans, focusing in particular on the German cities of Karlsruhe and Berlin. The comparative analysis provides new insights into how present adaptation plans consider physical and social structures, including issues of human vulnerability within cities. Based on the analysis we make recommendations on how to improve the consideration of both physical and socio-economic aspects of a city to support pathways for adaptation.

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