The Current

How cities are finding solutions to combat scorching heat waves

There's never been such an urgency for cities to adapt to the extreme heat that experts say will continue. Here are some ideas cities are implementing to keep cool in summers to come.

Paris is creating 'cool islands' a 7-minute walk from anywhere in the city

Record high temperatures are hitting cities across Canada, in some cases the heat has turned deadly. Quebec has reported at least 70 heat-related deaths this summer. (Marco Bertorello/AFP/Getty Images)

Read Story Transcript

It's been a dangerously hot summer all over the world — even fatal in some Canadian cities — and the urgency to deal with rising temperatures has scientists and environmental leaders finding solutions to keep city dwellers cool.

According to Kurt Shickman, executive director of the Global Cool Cities Alliance, there's a lot we can learn globally that is fairly easy to implement. His organization offers a systematic approach that uses technologies proven to cool cities.

"We can do a better job of managing what we're going to be facing to help us cool off. And if we do that at scale, we're looking at an average air temperature reduction of maybe 3 C to 4 C in some cases — and in certain neighborhood it could be even higher than that," he told The Current's guest host Ioanna Roumeliotis.

​Shickman suggested painting buildings' roofs with a highly reflective type of light-coloured paint that would help cool down hospitals, commercial buildings and homes.

He added it works best combined with a robust shade tree program, greenspace improvement programs and green roofs.

Other strategies some cities are employing to address heat waves include:

  • Mapping neighborhoods to identify the most vulnerable populations and target strategies and financial resources in those communities.
  • Training home health aides to help educate elderly clients on how to stay cool.
  • lighter-coloured pavement

Paris aims to have what they refer to as "cool islands" within a 7-minute radius from anywhere in the city. The city uses satellite technology to identify the nearest cool spots such as a shady park, a church or an air-conditioned building with public access on Google Maps.

In our discussion, The Current also spoke to:

  • Blair Feltmate, an expert on the adaptations cities who says cities need to take on a disaster preparedness approach for future heat waves, that are here to stay. Feltmate heads the Intact Centre on Climate Adaptation at the University of Waterloo.
  • Tracy Heffernan, a lawyer from the Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario, who argues cities need to protect those most vulnerable in heat waves — people who live in public and precarious housing.

Listen to the full conversation near the top of this page.

This segment was produced by The Current's Allie Jaynes and Samira Mohyeddin.


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