ACT Executive Director Deborah Harford was featured this morning on CBC Radio’s The Early Edition with Stephen Quinn, discussing how climate change is influencing the record-breaking heat waves across Western Canada. Climate change is altering the pattern of the jet stream, increasing the frequency of extreme heat events and threatening the health of vulnerable populations and wildlife. While this heat wave seems unusual or unexpected to many, it has been predicted for a long time.

“As someone who’s worked in adaptation for 15 years, we expected [extreme weather and heat waves]. The data was public, and the projections and planning ideas have been talked about… The fact is, the future is now.” 

To align local strategies with low carbon resilience, the top priority is to simultaneously reduce greenhouse gas emissions and reduce risk to benefit other key community priorities like health, equity, and biodiversity.

“Although the federal and provincial governments have an enormous role to play, its local governments and First Nations that are on the front lines.”

Deborah highlighted four key areas that local governments need to focus on when planning for extreme heat events:

  1. Who is most at risk: justice and equity need to be embedded into all climate policy and planning, including emergency communications in multiple languages, public cooling stations, and information readily accessible for those without internet access.
  2. Building design and retrofits: improved insulation, reduced emissions, and energy efficiency decrease the indoor impact of extreme heat.
  3. Connect decarbonization with human health: for example, the connection between local emissions, ground level ozone, and air qulity.
  4. Green infrastructure: green infrastructure minimizes the urban heat island effect, absorbs excess rain, benefits mental and physical health, and can support local biodiversity.

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