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Disarming the 'silent killer' : reducing the vulnerability of Toronto's elderly to extreme heat

Pfaff, Rosalind LU (2016) In Master Thesis Series in Environmental Studies and Sustainability Science MESM02 20161
LUCSUS (Lund University Centre for Sustainability Studies)
Abstract
Global climate projections forecast more frequent, intense and longer heat waves in the decades ahead. Heat waves are considered the most dangerous extreme weather event for human health, with impacts most pronounced in cities because of the urban heat island effect. Heat-related mortality rates are highest in certain at-risk populations, like the elderly. Toronto, Canada’s largest city, faces two compounding challenges: an increasing number of heat waves coupled with a rapidly growing senior population.

This paper, using qualitative interviews, document analysis, and some comparable work on other cities, investigates how response measures in Toronto aim to reduce seniors’ vulnerability to increasing heat waves, evaluates their current... (More)
Global climate projections forecast more frequent, intense and longer heat waves in the decades ahead. Heat waves are considered the most dangerous extreme weather event for human health, with impacts most pronounced in cities because of the urban heat island effect. Heat-related mortality rates are highest in certain at-risk populations, like the elderly. Toronto, Canada’s largest city, faces two compounding challenges: an increasing number of heat waves coupled with a rapidly growing senior population.

This paper, using qualitative interviews, document analysis, and some comparable work on other cities, investigates how response measures in Toronto aim to reduce seniors’ vulnerability to increasing heat waves, evaluates their current effectiveness and explores viable future steps for augmenting these strategies. Using Turner et al.’s 2003 integrated framework, vulnerability is conceptualized as a complex product of both the internal factors of exposure, sensitivity and adaptive capacity within Toronto’s coupled human-environmental system and the external factors beyond this system.

Findings highlight how existing city and some volunteer strategies in Toronto work to increase individual and community adaptive capacity, while ongoing city projects aim to reduce exposure levels at a building and municipal level. Failure to reach certain high-risk seniors, the limited success of cooling centres, high temperatures in some aging high-rise apartments and rooming houses, and the city’s over-reliance on air conditioning in light of energy grid instability and municipal environmental objectives are all identified as gaps in current strategies. Promising alternative pathways forward include developing a stronger social infrastructure with more securely funded community networks to support the elderly, better housing through targeted retrofitting of high-risk properties, and transitioning away from air conditioning dependence through more passive cooling design and expansion of the city’s use of deep water cooling. Findings about the Toronto situation also have applicability to other similar Canadian cities in the provinces of Quebec and Ontario, and in the United States. (Less)
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author
Pfaff, Rosalind LU
supervisor
organization
course
MESM02 20161
year
type
H2 - Master's Degree (Two Years)
subject
keywords
sustainability science, vulnerability, Toronto, elderly, heat wave
publication/series
Master Thesis Series in Environmental Studies and Sustainability Science
report number
2016:022
language
English
id
8879088
date added to LUP
2016-06-09 16:32:09
date last changed
2016-06-09 16:32:09
@misc{8879088,
  abstract     = {Global climate projections forecast more frequent, intense and longer heat waves in the decades ahead. Heat waves are considered the most dangerous extreme weather event for human health, with impacts most pronounced in cities because of the urban heat island effect. Heat-related mortality rates are highest in certain at-risk populations, like the elderly. Toronto, Canada’s largest city, faces two compounding challenges: an increasing number of heat waves coupled with a rapidly growing senior population. 

This paper, using qualitative interviews, document analysis, and some comparable work on other cities, investigates how response measures in Toronto aim to reduce seniors’ vulnerability to increasing heat waves, evaluates their current effectiveness and explores viable future steps for augmenting these strategies. Using Turner et al.’s 2003 integrated framework, vulnerability is conceptualized as a complex product of both the internal factors of exposure, sensitivity and adaptive capacity within Toronto’s coupled human-environmental system and the external factors beyond this system. 

Findings highlight how existing city and some volunteer strategies in Toronto work to increase individual and community adaptive capacity, while ongoing city projects aim to reduce exposure levels at a building and municipal level. Failure to reach certain high-risk seniors, the limited success of cooling centres, high temperatures in some aging high-rise apartments and rooming houses, and the city’s over-reliance on air conditioning in light of energy grid instability and municipal environmental objectives are all identified as gaps in current strategies. Promising alternative pathways forward include developing a stronger social infrastructure with more securely funded community networks to support the elderly, better housing through targeted retrofitting of high-risk properties, and transitioning away from air conditioning dependence through more passive cooling design and expansion of the city’s use of deep water cooling. Findings about the Toronto situation also have applicability to other similar Canadian cities in the provinces of Quebec and Ontario, and in the United States.},
  author       = {Pfaff, Rosalind},
  keyword      = {sustainability science,vulnerability,Toronto,elderly,heat wave},
  language     = {eng},
  note         = {Student Paper},
  series       = {Master Thesis Series in Environmental Studies and Sustainability Science},
  title        = {Disarming the 'silent killer' : reducing the vulnerability of Toronto's elderly to extreme heat},
  year         = {2016},
}