Climate Change and Geography
Climate change is at the heart of geography in many ways, and vice versa. As a holistic phenomenon, its causes, consequences and implications are closely related to natural and social sciences, culture, technology and economics. Furthermore, it is a regional phenomenon, meaning although climate change and its impacts are seen around the world, they vary from place to place. The geographical concept of scale plays an important role in understanding climate change in-depth. Impacts of global warming and methods of climate change mitigation are different in different communities, counties, countries and continents around the world, and processes at different levels impact on each other.
In the context of most school subjects, it is relatively easy to define their take on climate change clearly and compactly, but this does not apply to geography. Therefore, it is highly recommended that geography teachers read the entire guidebook.
This text highlights three geography topics particularly relevant in understanding and fighting climate change: regional variation of climate change impacts; regional planning for climate change; and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) as a tool of understanding and solving climate change.
Regional Impacts of Climate Change
Summing up the regional impacts of climate change is challenging, because they vary from region to region. Therefore, certain perspectives are highlighted here as examples. They illustrate consequences of climate change in a wider and smaller scale and the impacts they have on the natural environment, species and societies.
Regional Planning for Climate Change
Regional planning decisions have long-term impacts on the future. Regional planning, or area planning, deals with efficient placement of infrastructure, which consists of planning and engineering. It seeks to order and regulate use of land and water areas and municipal services.
Planning is a process concerned with various land uses. It aims to create a good and functional living environment. In Finland, planning is being monitored and evaluated by the Land Use and Building Act. In addition to different plans, municipalities are required to have building ordinances. Planning consists of different levels from national goals to the placement of single houses. Each stage of the planning process has its place and a general rule of thumb is that the more detailed the plan, the more focused the planned area.
Civil engineering is a professional engineering discipline dealing with the design and construction of infrastructure. It includes projects like management of water and waste, sewages and transportation.
Climate change has various impacts on the built environment. It can put increasing pressure on the infrastructure, affect the exterior surfaces of buildings and increase the risk of flooding. Climate change impacts should be taken into account throughout the development process, from area planning and placement of buildings, to construction and maintenance. High-quality regional planning can help to tackle negative impacts of climate change and create environments that are well built and comfortable.
Tackling Climate Change – the Role of GIS
Geographic data and information refers to any data and information having an implicit or explicit association with a location relative to the Earth. It combines spatio-temporal data, which represents any attribute of an object, and geographic location is most commonly represented using a coordinate reference system. For example, when the location of the building is combined with one of its spatio-temporal references (colour, height, address etc.), it results in producing geographic data and information. Most of the statistics relate to geographic information, since most of the information about the Earth – for example, sea level, precipitation and population density – is geographic data about a specific place.