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Aging cities more vulnerable to climate change: study

By Hwang Joo-young

Published : April 9, 2024 - 15:05

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Cities with large populations of older residents show greater vulnerability to climate change due to inadequate investment in green infrastructure and spaces such as parks and forests, according to a study conducted by the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology on Tuesday.

A research team led by Kim Seung-kyum, professor at the Moon Soul Graduate School of Future Strategy at Daejeon-based KAIST, discovered the correlation between an aging population and its impact on vulnerability to climate change.

For the analysis, Kim selected 10 ASEAN countries -- Brunei Darussalam, Burma, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam -- due to their shared characteristics, including weather patterns, geographical location and environmental conditions.

The study incorporated changes in climate adaptation policies across 26,885 communities in the Southeast Asian countries over the past 20 years.

Kim concluded that communities experiencing a rise in elderly population demonstrated heightened vulnerability to climate change, attributed to a reduction in green infrastructure.

According to Kim's explanation, in countries experiencing aging populations, there tends to be accelerated industrial development, resulting in a greater absolute decrease in green infrastructure compared to countries with different demographic trends.

"Green infrastructure, including green spaces, forests and bodies of water, serves as a protection against natural disasters," Kim said.

"However, industrialization often leads to the destruction of nature, for example, the disappearance of forests, green spaces, and water bodies, all together serving as flood prevention measures. This escalation in exposure risk to climate change is a significant concern."

Kim stated that the findings of this study indicate that "climate change measures should not only focus on environmental considerations but also take into account various socio-economic variables such as societal aging, economic resources and urban planning."

"I hope this research provides meaningful insights for many countries, including Korea, experiencing complex crises such as climate change, low birth rates and aging at once," Kim added.

The study was also published in the international academic journal Nature Climate Change.