As the Greater Toronto Area continues to feel the effects of a persistent heat wave, a Toronto researcher and her colleagues are taking a closer look at how communities across the city can adapt.
Karen Smith, an assistant professor with the University of Toronto and researcher with the School of Cities, says her hope is the information they’re harvesting now will sow the seeds for a better future.
“Typically now, we have twelve 30-plus-degree days per summer,” she told Global News.
“Thirty years from now, it’s going to be more like 30 days per summer, and by the end of the century, we’re looking at 60 days per summer, so basically the whole summer.”
Though that timing may seem far off, Smith says it’s imperative for people to be aware that heat extremes aren’t going away.
Smith says overall, the elderly and low-income communities are most affected. When it comes to specific areas of the city most vulnerable to heat exposure, she points to Jane and Finch, or Thorncliffe Park. Areas like the Glen Stewart Ravine in Toronto’s east end would fare better.
“In low-income neighbourhoods, they likely have less access to air conditioning, and there’s also a connection between low income and a greater propensity for underlying health conditions, so that can exacerbate a person’s response to heat,” she explained.
Smith says other factors that can determine whether a community can bear the blistering conditions is access to ravines and green space and proximity to the lake, which would have a cooling effect on conditions outside.
“These extreme events are going to happen in Toronto. We’re not immune to them and so we need to accelerate our adaptation planning and focus on the communities that are most vulnerable,” she added.