Welcome to the urban climate lab! The urban climate lab is a group of researchers at Georgia Tech's City & Regional Planning Program who are exploring the connections between climate change and the built environment. Through this website, we hope to highlight the range of mechanisms through which land use change, both within and outside of cities, is driving ongoing warming trends and impacting human and environmental health. Globally, urbanized areas account for the majority of the human population but have received relatively little attention in climate change research. The UCL integrates expertise in the realms of environmental science, urban design, and public health to develop strategies to manage and counteract climate change at the urban scale.
Of particular interest to our research group is the influence of land use on observed warming trends in cities. Land use is contributing to climate change through two distinct mechanisms. First, land use change in the form of urbanization is associated with increased energy consumption and the emission of greenhouse gases, serving to enhance the global greenhouse effect. As detailed on the "Projects" page, our work has addressed the potential benefits of alternative land development strategies, such as "smart growth," for reductions in auto use and emissions of carbon dioxide. A second and more direct mechanism through which land use influences climate change is through the displacement of natural land covers, such as tree canopy cover, by building materials with a greater capacity to absorb, store, and reemit heat energy. In response to what we term the "green loss effect," our work finds large cities in the U.S. to be warming at more than twice the rate of the planet as a whole as a result of the loss of naturally vegetated land covers. Through several ongoing research effects, the UCL is measuring the success of alternative land development and urban design strategies in abating the pace of climate change in cities.
We hope you will explore these projects and the work of the UCL in general through our website.