1.4.1. Vulnerability to heat waves

Vulnerability driven by inequality and other socio-economic conditions of the population makes the population more susceptible to almost any kind of risk, including of course heat waves. Assessment of vulnerability to heat wave performed in London in 2013 (Wolf and McGregor, 2013), attributes the following risk factors as contributing to population’s sensitivity to heat waves: being elderly, preexisting illness, impared health, including mental and psychiatric illness, low economic status, low education, living alone and social isolation, minority status, living in institutions and being confined to bed, as well as low mobility (Wolf and McGregor, 2013)

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Fig.12 Conceptualisation of vulnerability (Wolf and McGregor, 2013)

There are of course factors of vulnerability that have exclusively physical nature, such as radiation, elevation, urban bioclimatic conditions. Yet other factors which contribute to exposure to heat are at least partially influenced either by socio-economic condition of the population, or by low “culture” of or low preparedness to heat. These factors include thermal characteristics of housing, ventilation, air conditioning, orientation of windows and buildings, solar and heat protection, broader urban context. (Roaf et al., 2009; Wolf and McGregor, 2013).

For the purposes of the present thesis, vulnerability will be considered as a function of three variables: exposure, sensitivity and adaptive capacity (Fig. 12 ) Both indoor and outdoor heat exposure factors, like housing characteristics or urban environment, are taken into account. As for adaptive capacity and sensitivity are related and are influeneced by a wide range of socio-economic factors. External factors, as exposure to air pollution and other contextualities are also analysed.

With the use of concepts and theoretical framework presented in the present chapter, the next chapter explores vulnerability of the particular territory of Plaine Commune to heat waves, starting with description of Plaine Commune, with retrospective insights as well as presenting current socio-economic atmosphere and identity issues in the agglomeration community, presenting the impact of 2003 heat wave as well as projections of future impacts. The following analysis unfolds the principal factors of vulnerability and serves as incentive to local climate policy development.

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