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Adapting to the Effects of Climate Change

Preventing and eliminating the effects of heat

A number of measures can prevent and eliminate the effects of heat and heat islands.

What are heat islands?

An urban heat island refers to an area of the city where temperatures are hotter than adjacent rural or forested areas. Data shows that urban centers can be up to 12oC hotter than their surroundings.

Temperatures in heat islands vary on a daily and seasonal basis. They are influenced by both natural factors, such as wind and humidity, and human activity (for example, heat generated by industry or car engines). Heat islands affect not only the environment but also human health.

Not just in Montréal . . .

For several decades, areas of extreme heat have been appearing in the suburbs due to urban sprawl and the loss of plant cover due to commercial expansion.

This interactive map from Ministère de la Sécurité publique (in French) shows heat islands and cool zones in Québec’s urban areas. Find out whether you live in a heat island!

In Québec, the Climate Change Action Plan supports a number of initiatives to prevent and eliminate the effects of heat:

  •  There have been numerous initiatives to create cool zones and green roofs, lanes, public parking lots, and school yards. These projects are often carried out in disadvantaged neighborhoods, leading to greater social cohesion and enhanced living environments, which in turn leads to improved health and quality of life for residents.

  • Map of projects that have reduced the impacts of climate change on health (in French). This map shows projects conducted in various communities to reduce heat islands. Whether in school yards, daycare centers, or parking lots, people have come up with a wide array of ingenious solutions!

In Québec, the Climate Change Action Plan supports initiatives to monitor and prevent diseases that develop more readily in a hotter climate:

  • Québec’s multipartite observatory on vector-borne and zoonotic diseases . Institut national de santé publique set up this observatory to advise its experts on vector-borne diseases and adaptation to climate change

Preventing the impacts of heat waves

Scientists tell us that heat waves will very likely occur more frequently and last longer as a direct result of climate change. For most of us, heat waves are simply uncomfortable, but they can have serious consequences for the most vulnerable members of the community.

On a very hot day, body temperatures can increase to an abnormally high level. In babies, young children, seniors, and people who are ill, heat stress may be a health hazard that in some cases can even lead to death.

To intervene quickly and effectively during heat waves, the Québec government has set up a monitoring and surveillance system targeting the most vulnerable members of the population. It consists of a system of telephone advisories and a personalized automated online service that can literally save lives!

In Québec, the Climate Change Action Plan supports projects designed to prevent the impacts of heatwaves:

Enhancing assistance and psychosocial support measures

Living through a natural disaster is stressful and difficult, but the period after the event can be just as hard. Disaster victims who have gone through an extreme weather event face big life changes (loss of a loved one, their belongings, their home, etc.), which may cause adaptation or anxiety disorders.

They may also have financial or personal problems or feel helpless when it comes to reorganizing their lives or finding a new place to live.

In Québec, the Climate Change Action Plan supports a number of initiatives aimed at enhancing assistance and psychosocial support measures:

  • Research projects on the psychosocial impacts of natural hazards and how to prevent them. The objective is to better support members of the public following extreme weather events such as floods and landslides.

  • Directory of tools for monitoring the psychosocial impacts of climatic hazards. A directory (in French) is available that lists psychosocial measurement tools for monitoring psychosocial and health impacts of climatic hazards on the population.

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