Turin has a problem adapting to climate change. A problem that affects the health and safety of those most vulnerable to the effects that rising temperatures cause in urban contexts. According to what has been found in research carried out by the Euro-Mediterranean Center for Climate Change (Cmcc) foundation, in recent years Turinese have found themselves more exposed to health risks arising from the multiplication of days and not only in which temperatures are above seasonal averages.
Women and the elderly most at risk from city heat
As in many other large cities, also in Turin there are those climatic dynamics attributable to “heat islands”, a phenomenon for which, in urban contexts, microclimates develop that generally raise the averages typical of areas characterized by certain morphological characteristics . These conditions condition the emergence of new health risks for the inhabitants.
The research published by Cmcc considers data collected over a period of almost forty years – from 1982 to 2018. A period in which, overall, the health hazards for the inhabitants of Turin have increased. The survey carried out concerns “indirect” health risks, i.e. those which only affect human beings after a decisive change in temperature has caused a modification of the ecosystem – such as a greater capacity to transmit diseases by insects, a deterioration in the quality of water, food, etc.
This category includes, for example, respiratory illnesses caused by pollution, infections, viruses, allergies and even mental illnesses or stress disorders. These effects are often closely linked to socio-economic factors, which reveal that health threats do not affect people indiscriminately. Taking into account a series of factors, in fact, it appears that the health risk associated with higher temperatures – understood by research in relative terms – is higher in women than in men. At the same time, taking into account the degree of social involvement of the people questioned, it appears that it is the most isolated, often for reasons of age, who suffer the most.
Hotter than 30 years ago
In previous research published by Cmcc, we read how Turin – like other cities in northern Italy – is characterized by a greater excess of heat-related mortality compared to other regions of Italy. Specifically, the research indicates that “Turin is characterized by a strong positive association between summer mortality and average daily temperatures”.
Comparing the maximum temperatures recorded in Turin in 2018 with the values published by Istat for the period 1971 – 2000, there is an increase of 2.04°C. “These estimates are in line with what is reported in the city’s vulnerability plan – reads Cmcc research – which shows that over the past 30 years the temperature trend has been positive, with considerable increases in particular during the summer seasons”.
“Among the actions at the local level that could be adopted to improve the adaptability of the city – explains Marta Ellena of the Department of Environmental Sciences of the Ca’ Foscari University of Venice – we could look at what has been done recently in France, where a database has been created of the people most vulnerable to the effects of climate change in the heat islands of large cities. Data which is then used by the health services and voluntary associations present on the territory to come to the aid of these subjects”.
The social effects of climate change
The work of the Cmcc, which took Turin as a case study, insists on the path of research marked by the latest report published by the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) of the United Nations, entitled “Change climate 2022: impacts, vulnerability and adaptation “. Among other things, in the document it is possible to read how, in the most developed urban contexts, the existence of a “structural” capacity to respond to the consequences of climate change does not always correspond to a speed of formulation and implementation of the contrast shared and economically viable policies In essence, the richer and more technologically advanced local and national contexts still have to face possible obstacles of a political and financial nature to face the challenges of climate change.
The policies of the countries that have the most tools and where the culture of ecological and energy transition has been most successful – which often imply, in some way, the responsibility of providing a more balanced and attentive response, which takes into account , natural and social needs. As the IPCC report points out, indeed, at present, much of the financial commitment to respond to climate change seems to ignore the social implications of this phenomenon, while there is little evidence in the world of a direct commitment of the administrations towards the colonies, which remain true no man’s lands where political action is hardly interested.