Mapping Climate Change Hazards: Using GIS to Identify Social Vulnerability to the Effects of Environmental Hazards in the UK
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Research suggests that the precise nature and effects of climate change, including changes to the Earth’s climate patterns, can have an adverse environmental impact on localities, regions, and countries. Research shows that socially disadvantaged communities continue to endure a disproportionate burden of environmental stresses, but little is known about the effects of climate change on the future socio-spatial distribution of these disadvantaged communities in the United Kingdom (UK). This research considers the disproportionate effects that climate change may have on socially vulnerable groups in British society. The paper investigated what climate-related environmental stresses exist within the UK, identified vulnerable populations and disadvantaged communities, and investigated the interaction of these stresses on vulnerable communities within a social justice framework. Using GIS, deprivation was mapped for all 650 Westminster Parliamentary constituencies (wards) using Carstairs scores to identify vulnerable populations. A series of measures of environmental variables related to climate change - such as temperature and rainfall - were developed and mapped. Finally, surfaces were rendered for each identified environmental hazard and spatial analysis was performed to investigate the interaction of each of these surfaces with the identified vulnerable population. The relationship between deprivation and multiple environmental hazards was further investigated and visualized by developing a social vulnerability matrix (SVM). The results of this investigation suggest that environmental stresses from climate change disproportionately affect socially disadvantaged groups more adversely and will continue to do so in the immediate future.