How Climate Change Is Making Cities Sick

How Climate Change Is Making Cities Sick

Urban Canadians are feeling the impact of climate change. Flooding in Quebec this spring damaged nearly 1,900 homes in 126 municipalities, causing widespread psychological distress. Summer heatwaves are predicted to become more frequent and severe each year, putting more people at risk of injury and death. Vancouver and Toronto are working to manage these risks. Most Canadian cities need to work harder to include climate change in public health planning.

The Climate Change Adaptation Research Group at McGill University looks at how climate change is impacting human society, and what solutions we can design to protect ourselves. Drawing on evidence from our research into cities in Canada and around the world, we propose that cities will need to integrate climate change concerns into public health and the health-care sector more seriously.

Cities must also focus on the most vulnerable groups (such as low-income households and older adults) and emphasize the participation of citizens and the community in planning for climate change impacts.

Climate health risks in urban Canada

Heavy rains causing floods and mudslides are already frequent across Canada, as we’ve seen in Quebec and eastern Ontario this year, and in Calgary and Toronto in previous years. These events are predicted to increase in frequency and intensity. Violent thunderstorms and rising sea levels in coastal cities such as Vancouver and Halifax are also expected to get worse. Floods and violent weather cause injury, illness and death, as well as mental health effects of distress.

Heatwaves are expected to become more frequent and severe over the next few decades, causing heat stroke and even deaths, as well as respiratory and cardiovascular disorders. Increased air pollution in cities will also come from automobile exhausts, exacerbated by projected warmer temperatures. Urban air pollution is linked with eye, nose and throat irritation, respiratory conditions, and chronic pulmonary disease and asthma.

These climate change events will affect some groups more than others. Flooding is devastating to households lacking financial resources. Low-income families have reduced access to air-conditioned places. Older adults are more vulnerable to heat because of reduced thirst sensation, challenges of moving, visual or hearing impairments and often social isolation.

Children are also at risk during heatwaves. They depend on a caregiver to recognize the symptoms of heat stroke and have less ability to sweat than adults.

Which cities are leading and which are lagging behind?

Toronto and Vancouver are leading health adaptation to climate change both in Canada and globally. Most of Toronto’s initiatives address extreme heat, along with flooding and air quality. Vancouver’s health adaptation initiatives also focus on heat-related risks. Vancouver also places an importance on vulnerable groups, namely homeless residents and low-income households.

Montreal only released its first climate change plan in 2015, but the city has been a pioneer in protecting residents from extreme heatwaves since 1994. The heatwave plan involves monitoring signs of heat-related illness, frequent visits to home-care patients, opening air-conditioned shelters, extending pool hours and mass media communication campaigns. This has reduced mortality by 2.52 deaths per day during hot days.

Smaller cities face tougher challenges. Most Canadian municipalities simply do not have the resources and expertise to plan for the health impacts of climate change. Health adaptation competes with other important health priorities, such as smoking, obesity and poverty.

Can urban adaptation be done better?

Some argue that climate change needs to be integrated deeper into city plans across all sectors. Vancouver and Toronto are already experimenting with this. Vancouver has updated its building code bylaw to raise flood construction levels. Toronto now requires all new buildings over 2,000 square metres to include roofs with vegetation on them — to slow down the urban heat island effect and reduce the incidence of heatwaves.

Cities also need to place the voices of people closest to impacts at the centre of decisions. Low income and older residents, for example, are at the highest risk for heat-related illnesses or death. Many of these residents already suffer from health conditions and are more likely to experience social isolation and lack of support.

Another way to make adaptation easier is through collaboration and coordination. Municipalities can learn from each other, rather than reinventing the wheel. For example, it’s important to make sure there is a strong link and coordination between local public health authorities and municipal governments; in most Canadian provinces, these two are separate.

International networks of mayors’ offices such as C40 and Resilient Cities already work toward sharing knowledge and best practices.

Finally, cities should seek out adaptation options that have other health co-benefits. An example would be urban parks that provide shading from the sun but also serve as social amenities for recreation and socializing.

Preparing cities for the health impacts of climate change, then, needs to integrate climate risks into public health and the health-care sector. It needs to consider the risks for vulnerable people such as the elderly. It also needs to emphasize collaboration among cities and among government agencies.

The ConversationWith the federal government committing $125 billion to infrastructure from 2015 to 2025, now is the time to build health protections into how we climate-proof our cities.

About The Author

Malcolm Araos, Research assistant, McGill University; James Ford, Associate Professor in the Department of Geography, McGill University, and Stephanie Austin, MA Student, Department of Geography, McGill University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Related Books:

List Price: $21.99
Sale Price: $21.99 $14.57 You save: $7.42
Product Description: To hide its dramatic findings, the government released its mandated Climate Assessment Report on Black Friday while everyone was out shopping. Melville House is rushing the report into print - including all its charts, graphs, and illustrations - to broadcast its meticulous and devastating findings about the causes and impact of global warming.

The U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) is mandated by law "at least every four years ... to submit to the President and the Congress an assessment regarding the findings of ... the effects of global change, and current and major long-term trends in global change." This year, the report was released in the wake of a series of some of the most devastating hurricanes in American history, as well as the horrific California wildfires. As the report says, "The assumption that current and future climate conditions will resemble the recent past is no longer valid."

Detailing not only the devastating impact of global warming on the environment, but health issues leading to tens of thousands of deaths per year, and economic losses of tens of billions of dollars, the report concludes that "The evidence of human-caused climate change is overwhelming and continues to strengthen, that the impacts of climate change are intensifying across the country, and that climate-related threats ... are rising."



List Price: $33.00
Sale Price: $33.00 $22.43 You save: $10.57
Product Description: Many of us have concerns about the effects of climate change on Earth, but we often overlook the essential issue of human health. This book addresses that oversight and enlightens readers about the most important aspect of one of the greatest challenges of our time.

The global environment is under massive stress from centuries of human industrialization. The projections regarding climate change for the next century and beyond are grim. The impact this will have on human health is tremendous, and we are only just now discovering what the long-term outcomes may be.

By weighing in from a physician’s perspective, Jay Lemery and Paul Auerbach clarify the science, dispel the myths, and help readers understand the threats of climate change to human health. No better argument exists for persuading people to care about climate change than a close look at its impacts on our physical and emotional well-being.


The need has never been greater for a grounded, informative, and accessible discussion about this topic. In this groundbreaking book, the authors not only sound the alarm but address the health issues likely to arise in the coming years.



List Price: $29.95

Product Description: Ending poverty and stabilizing climate change will be two unprecedented global achievements and two major steps toward sustainable development. But the two objectives cannot be considered in isolation: they need to be jointly tackled through an integrated strategy. This report brings together those two objectives and explores how they can more easily be achieved if considered together. It examines the potential impact of climate change and climate policies on poverty reduction.

Shock Waves also provides guidance on how to create a "win-win" situation so that climate change policies contribute to poverty reduction and poverty-reduction policies contribute to climate change mitigation and resilience building. The key finding of the report is that climate change represents a significant obstacle to the sustained eradication of poverty, but future impacts on poverty are determined by policy choices: rapid, inclusive, and climate-informed development can prevent most short-term impacts whereas immediate pro-poor, emissions-reduction policies can drastically limit long-term ones.



English Afrikaans Arabic Chinese (Simplified) Chinese (Traditional) Dutch Filipino French German Hindi Indonesian Italian Japanese Korean Malay Persian Portuguese Russian Spanish Swahili Swedish Thai Turkish Urdu Vietnamese

LATEST VIDEOS

Jay Inslee Tells Hayes That He Wants To Gut The Filibuster To Fight Climate Change
by MSNBC
Washington Governor Jay Inslee is running for president on the single issue of climate change and argues that doing…
Causes and Effects of Climate Change
by National Geographic
What causes climate change (also known as global warming)? And what are the effects of climate change? Learn the human…
Extreme Weather and Global Warming
by NASA Goddard
Is the frequency of extreme weather events a sign that global warming is gaining pace and exceeding predictions? Bill…
Thanks to Climate Change, Wet Winters No Match for Drier California Summers
by KPIX CBS SF Bay Area
If the emerald-green hills around Northern California have you thinking recent rains have put a damper on the fire…
Climate Change Is Not One Issue
by MSNBC
"Climate change is not one issue," said David Wallace-Wells, author of "The Uninhabitable Earth," but is…
The Heat: Climate change
by CGTN America
Images gathered by NASA show an increase in foliage in China and India. The greening effect is mainly due to ambitious…
No company is doing enough to combat climate change: Jeremy Grantham
by CNBC Television
Jeremy Grantham, co-founder of GMO, on climate change and what needs to be done to combat it.
Power Plants Are POISONING Groundwater All Over America
by The Ring of Fire
According to a new report, 90% of coal-fired power plants across the country have completely contaminated the…

LATEST ARTICLES

Default Image
Come on, UK weather forecasters – tell it like it is on climate change
by Adam Corner
They have a national reach that most climate campaigners would die for. They are familiar and respected experts on the…
Green New Deal: 6 places already reducing emissions from buildings
Green New Deal: 6 places already reducing emissions from buildings
by David Roberts
One of the elements of the Green New Deal resolution that has caused the most consternation among critics on the right…
Default Image
UK environmentalists target Barclays in fossil fuels campaign
by Matthew Taylor
A UK-wide campaign is being launched to persuade one of the country’s biggest high street banks to stop investing…
Oceanic carbon uptake could falter
Oceanic carbon uptake could falter
by Tim Radford
What does oceanic carbon uptake achieve? Greenhouse gas that sinks below the waves slows global warming a little and…
Britain (Yes, Rainy Britain) Could Run Short of Water by 2050, Official Says
Britain (Yes, Rainy Britain) Could Run Short of Water by 2050, Official Says
by Global Warming & Climate Change
“Climate change plus growth equals an existential threat,” Mr. Bevan said. To avoid severe water shortages, he added,…
Default Image
Record high US temperatures outpace record lows two to one, study finds
by Associated Press
Over the past 20 years, Americans have been twice as likely to sweat through record-breaking heat rather than shiver…
Climate change: Water shortages in England 'within 25 years'
Climate change: Water shortages in England 'within 25 years'
by BBC News - Science & Environment
Image copyright PA Image caption Low water levels at Wayoh Reservoir near Bolton in the UK heatwave in July 2018 Within…
Default Image
Why you'll never meet a white supremacist who cares about climate change
by Rebecca Solnit
As the news of the Christchurch mosque massacre broke and I scoured the news, I came across a map showing that the…