Climate change: Cold weather, storms and heat waves are the most difficult for those already facing challenges in everyday life

In Tampere, climate change can manifest itself in various ways, such as severe winter temperatures, heavy snowfall and rainfall, and an increase in slippery conditions and heat waves in the summer. The City of Tampere investigated which population groups are most vulnerable to extreme weather phenomena caused by climate change and in which areas they are most likely to be exposed to floods and heat.
A family walking in Pyynikki in winter in a foggy weather.
Slippery conditions make it difficult to venture outdoors if you require assistance with mobility.

The study evaluated the vulnerability of urban residents to climate-related hazards such as storms, slippery conditions and heat, as well as their ability to adapt to emergency situations. For example, for the elderly or those moving with assistive devices, excessive snowfall and a heightened risk of slippery roads may mean less outdoor activity and staying at home.

The analysis revealed that the urban population most at risk from severe weather includes small children, the elderly and persons with a general impairment in functional capacity or reduced mobility, as well as people with low income, homeless people and those belonging to linguistic minorities.  

The challenges brought on by climate change place added pressure on society's crucial functions, such as healthcare, rescue services and information and communication connections, leading to a decline in their functionality. The consequences of this are reflected in groups that do not have the opportunity to independently prepare themselves for disruptions or mitigate their impact during the actual event.   

Relying on the help of others in everyday life makes you vulnerable

Representatives of vulnerable groups shared their experiences about the effects of extreme weather conditions for the report. Milla Lindh, coordinator of the Finnish Deafblind Association, emphasises that emergency conditions always make everyday life more difficult. It becomes harder to handle responsibilities, such as shopping, independently.  

– Leaving home very often depends on assistance from another person, interpretation services for those with disabilities, or volunteers. For example, the interpreter’s car may freeze in sub-zero temperatures, leaving them unable to assist.   

Most individuals with disabilities typically have either little or no income, resulting in inadequate resources. For example, they might lack appropriate coats or shoes for exceptionally cold temperatures.      

For a deaf-blind individual who depends on tactile sign language, obtaining information may be an obstacle if the assistance of interpreters is not swiftly accessible to all. Elderly people with combined hearing and vision impairments may not be able to use online communications.   

Milla Lindh and Taina Törmä from the Older People’s Council of Tampere, who brought the perspective of older people to the report, emphasise that ensuring that routes are easily accessible and properly maintained benefits the survival of all people, not just specific communities.

Elderly people living alone need concrete instructions on how to prepare for cold and hot weather.  

– Older people should be seen as actors who can influence matters themselves. You have to go to a refreshing park when your home becomes unbearably hot. Self-efficacy sustains a hopeful mindset, Taina Törmä describes.

The social lives of many elderly people rely on their contacts with fellow residents in their housing company. For this reason, property managers and maintenance companies are important channels for influencing preparedness. Libraries and shopping centres already serve as important warm and well-lit spaces for social encounters. 

Dense residential areas and crucial functions are at risk  

The study examined where people belonging to vulnerable groups live in Tampere. The data was integrated onto maps, along with details on the areas most prone to flooding and heat islands.   

A map of Tampere highlighting in blue and green the areas where the groups of people who are most likely to be exposed to floods live.
Tampere regions, where the most vulnerable groups of people are most likely to be exposed to floods.
A map of Tampere highlighting in red the areas where the groups of people who are most likely to be exposed to heat live.
Tampere regions, where the most vulnerable groups of people are most likely to be exposed to heat.
A map of Tampere highlighting the areas with the greatest potential impacts of floods and heat on people, buildings and ecosystems in Tampere.
The greatest potential impacts of floods and heat on people, buildings and ecosystems in Tampere.

Geographically speaking, the biggest susceptibility to risks posed by climate change lies in the densely populated areas of Tampere, such as the city centre, Hervanta, Lielahti and the centres of different parts of the city. This is also the case in areas that contain vital societal functions, such as several schools or day-care centres, and where a heat island is formed. Such areas can be found, for example, in Kaarila, Hyhky, the Sairaalankatu area, Nekala and Muotiala.   

A heat island refers to an area with a higher temperature than the surrounding region. In Tampere, industrial and workplace areas, such as Nekala, Lielahti and the TAYS area, are also heavily impacted by the heat island phenomenon.  

– The city is responsible for guaranteeing a healthy and safe living environment for its residents. By examining areas of vulnerability, initial measures can be targeted at the most urgent locations, says Development Manager Kaisa Mustajärvi from the Climate and Environmental Policy Unit of Tampere City.

Urban planning can alleviate problems such as the heat island phenomenon by adding parks, green areas and reflective surfaces that do not absorb heat, and by adding water elements and allowing easy access to water. Floods can be prevented by replacing asphalt and concrete surfaces with so-called permeable surfaces and by building structures that delay and absorb rainwater and runoff water, such as retention basins and rain gardens. The map review centred on areas susceptible to floods and urban heat islands. In addition to the population, it also examined critical functions, means of livelihood and ecosystems of society that are vulnerable to climate change.

Measures taken by the City of Tampere to mitigate and adapt to climate change are presented in the Climate Neutral Tampere 2030 Roadmap.   

The vulnerability assessment was carried out by Ramboll Finland Oy. 

Further information

Kaisa Mustajärvi
Head of Development
040 806 2294
Text: Annika Kettunen and Essi Lehtinen
Photos: Visit Tampere/Laura Vanzo
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