Event: "Summer in the City," Dr. Jeremy Hoffman, Science Museum of Virginia
The local impacts of global climate change are generally underestimated or misunderstood by the public and policymakers as far-off, future problems. However, differential and regional surface warming trends are exacerbated in urban areas due to the radiative properties of impervious surfaces like buildings and roads relative to natural landscapes. Decades of research illustrate that this unnatural radiative imbalance in the built environment gives rise to the well-studied urban heat island effect, whereby air temperatures in urban areas are several degrees warmer than in surrounding non-urbanized areas. In this way, the urban heat island effect presents a unique opportunity to highlight the human influence on Earth systems and at the same time mobilize local community-scale action to mitigate and become resilient to climate change impacts on tangible, experiential time scales. However, public stakeholders, city planners, and policymakers may view the urban heat island effect and its mitigation strategies through varying degrees of climatological, public health, and urban development knowledge and interest. This variation in stakeholder engagement highlights the need for individualized science communication strategies for each audience in order to maximize understanding of the scientific outcomes and tactics for mitigating the urban heat island effect. The City of Richmond, Virginia is currently developing a climate action plan as part of their greenhouse gas emission reduction initiative, RVAgreen 2050, and its recently announced “Richmond 300,” a 20-year city development master plan. These initiatives provide the policy backdrop for a public and stakeholder education campaign centered on communicating urban heat island effects and resilience strategies. As such, the Science Museum of Virginia led the city’s first urban heat island assessment using citizen science and leveraging a network of local university, non-profit, and city government stakeholders. Here, we will share our tactics for public- and policymaker-centered dissemination of urban heat island science, findings, and mitigation strategies using a variety of techniques including local news stations, 3D visualization technology, NOAA-funded museum media pieces, and policymaker/stakeholder engagement opportunities.