New study finds poorer suburbs can be 10 degrees hotter

Poor and disadvantaged Australian suburbs risk having urban hotspots.

New study finds poorer suburbs can be 10 degrees hotter

An RMIT University study has found disadvantaged Australian suburbs risk having urban hotspots that are more than 10 degrees higher than those found in greener, wealthier areas.

The research found metropolitan areas have lost vegetation equivalent to the size of Brisbane in the past three years, risking heat spikes in less affluent areas.

The Where Should All the Trees Go report – produced with CSIRO Data 61 and the University of Western Australia – examines greenness levels and how 139 local governments are performing in their greening plans.

Lead author Associate Professor Marco Amati, from the RMIT Centre for Urban Research, says local government greening efforts had not been as effective as hoped.

“Governments keep track of the green cover in cities as this has implications for adaptability in extreme weather events, biodiversity, and is linked to the community’s overall wellbeing,” he said.

“Using i-Tree – a method for sampling urban vegetation distributions and land covers – we found there has been a major decline in canopy coverage.

“As they lose vegetation, urban areas start to act like heat sponges.

“Our study showed areas identified as less affluent are at risk of having urban hotspots that are more than 10 degrees higher than those found in wealthier areas.”

To identify which areas of socioeconomic and health disadvantage coincide with a lack of green cover and a high incidence of heat, the team developed a new Vulnerability to Heat, poor Health, Economic Disadvantage and Access (VHHEDA) index.

“Using this index, we found that green spaces and heat concentration in Australia are spread unevenly, which is contributing to an uneven spread of economic and health circumstances,” Assoc Prof Amati said.

Report co-author Dr Bryan Boruff, from the University of Western Australia, says urban vegetation losses and gains can often be explained by the changing nature of neighbourhoods.

“Local governments showing the greatest green space losses across Perth lie in a band that stretches from inland Melville to coastal East Fremantle, where the traditional Aussie backyard is losing ground to densification and infill,” he said.

“While it is known that the Australian backyard is disappearing, much more research is required to understand the factors influencing this unanticipated trend to help get our urban greening back on track.”

What do you think? Are you worried about the lack of greenery in your local area? Is your suburb hotter than other suburbs?

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    COMMENTS

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    MICK
    28th Sep 2017
    10:47am
    Yeah, you'd be hard pressed finding a green area in the western suburbs of Sydney. That's why people reach for their air conditioners and put in pools....which adds greenhouse gases and makes the problem worse, along with population increase which the planet cannot afford and which nature will reap a terrible revenge on us all for.
    jackie
    28th Sep 2017
    11:05am
    The poor have always been ripped off and exploited by the well off. There is nothing new about that. It's always been a part of life throughout the human history.
    MICK
    28th Sep 2017
    11:38am
    Ask the poor why they do not plant trees and shrubs and/or concrete and pave their blocks?
    Part of the problem is decreasing block sizes to cram more people in but the other is attitude.
    I have a small block but it is crammed full of vegetation. In summer that means lower temperatures. Obvious.
    musicveg
    30th Sep 2017
    11:59pm
    Although I think in some indigenous cultures where everything is shared no one has more than another.
    Charlie
    28th Sep 2017
    11:25am
    What do they mean exactly? It must be there is less shade with fewer trees, so more heat falls on the building? But increase the trees and there's more work trimming them.

    So people could put more insulation in their roof cavity, despite political scare campaigns its not dangerous, unless you are in a swinging electorate. From the scientific point of view it could save money on electricity by blocking radiation heat and reducing aircon use.

    Going with natural ventilation, more trees in the yard gives cooler air coming in the windows, that's if the windows can be left open without being blasted by the noise of, power tools, mowers, edge trimmers, leaf blowers, spray jet compressors, kids, hot cars and bikes, aircraft, playing field events and loud music. They did say Urban didn't they.
    margie
    28th Sep 2017
    11:31am
    It breaks my heart seeing all the country eaten up by developers moving in and chopping everything green down. This is not helped by the people who end up purchasing the new homes and instead of putting in some trees and a lovely garden to try to replace what has been destroyed, they shove some stones, fake plastic grass and a few agaves in. And don't get me started on the high density homes with skinny roads and no where for your visitors to park, neighbours right on top of you, no where for the kids to play in the 'fresh' air. As Mick pointed out nature will reap a terrible revenge on us all but so will the people squashed in like sardines with no privacy. It's a recipe for disaster and we're seeing it with escalating neighbourhood disputes, road rage, kids roaming with no respect for themselves or others, dogs wandering and not on leads (because the rules don't apply to their owners, just to you and your dog), cats left to attack the wildlife and defecate on your property, etc etc etc. Whew feel better after that little rant.
    MICK
    28th Sep 2017
    11:42am
    Totally agree. Unfortunately governments always sell us out to business interests. The push to get frackers in to destroy our farming land and underground water should make that one clear and developers are not too far behind. Think electoral donations and yo have the source of the problem.
    musicveg
    1st Oct 2017
    12:03am
    Yes our Government is allowing tree clearing in NSW and QLD at an alarming rate, it will get hotter, less wildlife and the extinction of native animals like the Koala. It's all about the $$$$
    Rosret
    28th Sep 2017
    12:14pm
    So that's stating the obvious! You pay for the best location.
    However, take a look at Google maps satellite view of Sydney and zoom back. It is a massive scar on the landscape and it could do nothing but increase the regions already high temperatures.
    One has to remember that the low lying land was swampy grass regions that often flooded - but we fixed that and they are either dry savannas now or suburbia.
    We have done a lot of damage and we still do it.
    MICK
    28th Sep 2017
    1:05pm
    Its probably a lot more complex than that Rosret. The western suburbs are always going to be hotter but people can do things to cool a place down. That means avoid mass paving and concrete and plant shrubs and trees. The things working against that is apathy, laziness, shrinking block sizes and ignorance. Add up all of the above and you have the brown mass you see.
    I'm not promoting folk on the coast but this is a hostile environment but you still see some attempts to green space. The more affluent the suburb the more greenery. Sort of paints a picture.
    Arisaid
    28th Sep 2017
    1:02pm
    We have trees all around the perimeter of our suburban block. Certainly keeps it cooler in the summer. Neighbour complains "you have too many trees". These are not huge trees and don't cross onto his property. His yard is mainly concrete and they are always complaining of the heat! Our neighbour lost a lot of big old trees in the devastating storm we had a couple of years ago. Trouble is they have not been replaced.
    MICK
    28th Sep 2017
    1:08pm
    This is the reality. Well spoken. For the record 'trees' do not have to be huge eucalypts. Smaller trees will suffice. If they are deciduous as well you also get the benefit of winter sun, but of course some folk are hard bothered to deal with a few leaves once a year.
    Arisaid
    28th Sep 2017
    2:48pm
    Only problem Mick is that the darned possums can get on the roof from them! We have a possum dance on the tin roof most nights!
    Also we have a bit water tank so I am able to use the water from that to keep alive all the shrubs and flowers at the front of the house. We have no lawn there just beautiful plants. The birds and the bees love my place.
    Arisaid
    28th Sep 2017
    3:51pm
    *That should have said neighbourhood!! lost a lot of big old trees.
    musicveg
    1st Oct 2017
    12:07am
    The possums are only on your roof because native vegetation areas are continuing to be cleared for more developments.
    Ted Wards
    28th Sep 2017
    2:00pm
    Parts of East Brisbane have been stripped of all trees especially where all the new re-gentrification is occurring and along busy streets like Stanley Street and Vulture Street. The developers are taking away trees and any vegetation and replacing it all with footpaths which are hot to walk along. Its barren and looks awful.
    The pom
    28th Sep 2017
    3:29pm
    When I was training for marathons I would have at least one run per week of at least 25 km, which would take me through different suburbs, and it would be instantly obvious that some suburbs were much cooler than others, and generally meant lots of trees and lawns
    KB
    28th Sep 2017
    5:02pm
    There are more high rise building being built in our area that are not energy and green efficient Even the council admits that more though should have put into the buildings. We are losing open green space for our survival. places like Belair in the hills are covered with trees so much cooler. Every house and unit should have small shrubs and other type of greenery planted/ It should be made law otherwise the city and suburbs will be a concrete jungle, Bad for our health and environment
    Blondie
    28th Sep 2017
    10:17pm
    When my husband and I moved in 2004, we purposely chose our suburb....surrounded by parks!! Grandkids and residents love them....the council looks after them very well.....the large one, can easily take 2 cricket matches, simultaneously! Another, nearby, has a beautiful lake!
    Ageing but not getting old
    29th Sep 2017
    4:28pm
    Yes, planting trees etc. IS a good way to lower the temp, but it's not a choice renters would normally have. If you're in 'garden apartment' type rentals, you've got Buckley's of doing anything about it. Even in house rentals, most landlords are reticent to spend any significant amount of money on the comfort of their tenants (or the environment), over & above the legislated items (and sometimes, not even that!) If you're in affordable housing, you're not so inclined to 'rock the boat'...
    maxchugg
    30th Sep 2017
    11:11am
    I'm weary of the hostility that is generated when comments are made upon this subject, so I suggest that anyone with a genuine interest in the climate take a look at the following site:

    https://www.nasa.gov/feature/goddard/2016/carbon-dioxide-fertilization-greening-earth
    PlanB
    30th Sep 2017
    11:38am
    Well DUH --- of course the poorer places are hotter -- they are further WEST! so it is a lot hotter when you get away from the coast.

    I wonder how much it cost for this NEW STUDY
    Dee
    1st Oct 2017
    9:53pm
    There should be more regulations about tree cover. In fact we are losing trees because insurance companies insist councils take them out. Completely ridiculous! Yes then we need more aircon etc etc. Blocks are now too small for decent gardens, eaves on houses not deep enough, cheap thin buildings and the modern passion for pebbles an cacti all contribute to a hot dry environment. We are all very silly to let this happen
    PlanB
    2nd Oct 2017
    11:55am
    Thats the trouble no bugga complains and this allows those that rule to get away with whatever they want to.
    Arisaid
    2nd Oct 2017
    11:59am
    Having a Lord Mayor like ours who believes that there should be more and more large developments isn't helping. At least our local member is all for trees. In fact after the big storm here a couple of years ago she made sure that the trees in our local park were replaced ++ (gums with silky oaks) and they are looking terrific now. At least the widow makers have gone!
    MD
    2nd Oct 2017
    5:34pm
    Tree huggers, climate fuggers, westies vs besties (burbs) who cares ? I'm guessing, most those living in the poorer (read "less affluent" burbs) are likelier to place greater emphasis on space to park their countless family cars, motorbikes, jet ski's, caravans, boats etc and etc. Not for them such luxuries that exist in the affluent burbs and their sylvan glades, planted, cared for and tended by the local council - the cost being duly recouped in extortionate rates, all of which reflects the relative values.
    Block size, floor areas, building height, housing density, road/footpath widths and council priorities are but a few of the considerations that town planners have to contend with when dealing with developers whose aim is minimum input for maximum gain. Prospective buyers are little different. The older and established suburbs being generally nearer the inner circle also have established trees both roadside and onsite. Some subdivisions nowadays will have a caveat restricting tree height which thereby limits greening to shrubs, groundcover and annuals.
    Insurance restrictions and the cost of a tree surgeon nowadays are further deterrents to budding greenies.
    Ideally, and although I am not a town planner, perhaps each new subdivision should have a requisite green space the area of which is relative to overall size. The side walk should be planted to tree varieties in keeping with the locale and rates that include the cost of tree maintenance.
    Such a shame that we don't live in an ideal world - other than the one we personally consider ideal.


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