Projections of vulnerability have a considerable impact on the assessments of future heat-related risks.

The latest Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warns that with the increasing warming levels, starting from 2°C, extreme heat will exceed critical thresholds for human health. To understand the potential heat-related risks for people, it is critical to account for the socio-economic changes in addition to the temperature increase.

While the need to acknowledge social changes in assessing future risks has been long acknowledged, there are not many studies that combine both climatic and socio-economic scenarios. A recent study led by Armand Landreau, Aleksi Räsänen and other UEP group members addresses this gap and shows how climate and socio-economic changes will manifest in heat-related risks in Finland by the end of the century.

The article published in Climatic Change reports the methodology and results of an analysis of three different sets of scenarios. These are the Shared Socioeconomic Pathways (SSPs), including five global SSPs and three EUSSPs (SSP narratives specified to the EU), which paint different types of development paths in society. The SSPs were combined with three Representative Concentration Pathways (RCPs), which illustrate different climate futures based on emissions. The resulting data was examined at a level of a postal code area for Finland to assess future heat-related risks. Additionally, the authors examined the differences of including constant vs. dynamic vulnerability, meaning a comparison between societal factors remaining constant over time or not.

The results show clear differences between the risk projections where vulnerability is constant and those where vulnerability is considered as dynamic. These differences can be observed both spatially and temporally. This shows the importance of understanding societal change in addition to understanding how the climate changes.

Overall, the results show common trends in vulnerability decrease in the second half of the century; however, significant differences can emerge in the future depending on the chosen pathway. Spatially, the differences between risk levels where vulnerability is constant and dynamic are striking from 2050 onwards. In assessments where vulnerability is constant, the risk increases homogenously throughout the country (with the exception of Lapland). A notable increase is observed in the southeast and southwestern coastal areas. In the maps where vulnerability is dynamic, the differences are more nuanced and depict differences between dense urban areas and rural areas.

The results concerning specifically vulnerability highlight the need to target adaptation options not only to the areas with high projected temperature levels, but also to the areas with high human vulnerability, and the analysis of vulnerability indices provides insights for adaptation planning.  

Full results and methodology description can be found here.