CIties adapt to extreme heat Celebrating local leadership By Sophie Guilbault, Paul Kovacs, Peter Berry and Gregory R.A. Richardson, eds. December 2016
Canadians are experiencing more frequent and extreme heat events. Temperatures sometimes soar to levels that are dangerous to our health. The risk of health impacts from extreme heat is expected to continue rising due to climate change.
Most deaths from extreme heat are preventable. Preparing for extreme heat events is a critical challenge for local governments and other stakeholders across Canada. The warming across the country since the 1970s has occurred two to three times faster than the average warming experienced in the rest of the world.
Fortunately, efforts are underway to address the health risks of extreme heat in a number of communities across the country. Public health officials as well as city and regional governments are adapting to prepare for changes in the climate and developing strategies to protect people’s health during extreme heat events. Local and regional efforts to prepare for extreme heat is supported by provincial and federal governments, and by a number of other stakeholders taking action now to increase the resilience and safety of communities.
Local and regional governments are in a position to implement many of the critical actions to help Canadians better cope with extreme heat. This includes issuing targeted warnings, opening cooling centres in public facilities such as libraries, community centres and public pools, providing water for those in need, educating the public, and planting trees and other actions to cool urban environments and reduce urban heat islands.
Seven experts from the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction (ICLR) and Health Canada authored this report. ICLR has been designated by the International Council for Science as an International Centre of Excellence in Integrated Research on Disaster Risk. The Institute is based at Western University and is the oldest university-based disaster risk reduction research organization in Canada.
The 20 case studies presented in this report provide examples of local and regional governments across Canada that have adapted to better cope with extreme heat. These examples were chosen because they are innovative, and, in our opinion, could inform efforts in communities across the country.
Many of the communities identified in this report have a comprehensive strategy in place to address the risk of extreme heat events. The case studies present one element from the many actions they are implementing to address extreme heat. Showcasing key elements from a broad range of actions is offered to help other communities build an effective and comprehensive plan to confront the growing health risks to Canadians from extreme heat events.
An important message in this report is that leading communities are taking action now. The risk to the health of Canadians from extreme heat events is present today and will grow over time. We seek to recognize and honour local and regional governments taking action now, and it is encouraging to report that many are doing so.
This series of reports is a celebration of the leadership that local governments are providing in Canada on a broad range of important issues, including actions to address extreme heat. Each case study includes comments from an individual working within a local government whose responsibilities include the development and implementation of actions to address extreme heat risks. This report helps to raise awareness of health risks from extreme heat, offers examples of heat-health adaptation that other communities can learn from and is intended to spur action to prepare Canadians for the impacts of climate change.