“Canada is warming, on average, at twice the global rate,” says a recent Intact Centre on Climate Adaptation (University of Waterloo) report. “Urgent action is required NOW to manage risk and avoid worsening impacts — and ultimately FATALITIES — resulting from rising heat.” The report which identifies Canada’s “red zones” should raise alarm bells for all Canadians.
Extreme Heat in Red Zones
Thousands of Canada’s most vulnerable citizens each year risk suffering and death by extreme heat over the next few decades without collective action to protect them, says a new report from the University of Waterloo’s Intact Centre on Climate Adaptation.
The research identifies small towns and cities in southern B.C.—especially the Okanagan—the southern half of the prairie provinces, and the vast metropolitan areas that run from Windsor to Montreal as “red zones” that will be hardest hit by extreme heat events, with more than 17 million city dwellers at risk.
“Canadian alarm bells should be ringing loud and clear in relation to extreme heat,” states the report. “While flood and fire may be Canada’s most costly natural disasters, extreme heat is the ‘silent killer’.”
Annual loss of life could “surpass the 595 heat-related fatalities reported by British Columbia’s coroner in 2021, and 86 lives lost in Quebec in 2018,” if policy-makers and the public fail to address the problem, says an Intact Centre press release. These fatalities will be predominantly amongst the elderly, the poor, the disabled, and the homeless, according to the report.
“Warming and more intense extreme heat will be present for decades to come,” said study co-author Joanna Eyquem, the centre’s managing director of climate-resilient infrastructure. “If an extreme heat event coincided with an extended electricity outage—with no fans or air conditioning running—loss of life could easily jump to the thousands.”
To become resilient in the face of extreme heat—to withstand and recover from dangerously hot weather— Canadians must learn to adapt.
Urging Canadians to recognize their individual responsibility to reduce their own risks, plus the “opportunity to help protect others more vulnerable than themselves,” the report outlines 35 practical actions to help cope with rising temperatures.
These include designing and retrofitting buildings to promote passive cooling, expanding green spaces in urban areas, and regularly checking in on the community’s most vulnerable.