Tuesday, 10 May 2022  |  Reading time:  12 mins  | Read online

Extreme heat

This week, we’re putting the spotlight on initiatives to mitigate extreme heat impacts in the long and short term.

Extreme heat is one of the deadliest climate-driven natural disasters but is often taken less seriously by the public than storms, floods, or wildfires, as its impacts seem less visible.

In the USA, extreme heat causes more deaths than any other weather-related event, while in Australia, it is responsible for more deaths than all other natural disasters combined. Over the last two months, more than a billion people in India and Pakistan have been exposed to 40-50°C temperatures in a heatwave of unprecedented length and intensity.

With global temperatures rising, days and nights that are hotter than usual will become increasingly common and extreme heat periods more regular and severe. Urban areas will be particularly impacted, as built-up areas with paved surfaces and little vegetation absorb heat, leading to higher ambient temperatures than surrounding areas – known as ‘urban heat islands.’ The average city could lose up to 1.7% of GDP to heat-related productivity losses by 2050, according to Arsht-Rock. Disadvantaged areas within cities are more likely to be severely impacted by extreme heat than wealthier areas, which often have more cooling street greenery and energy-efficient homes.

So how can local government address extreme heat? This edition highlights initiatives by councils leading the way to mitigate heat impacts by directing resources towards heat action plans and dedicated staff roles.

Heat action plans can be used to coordinate emergency measures during heatwaves, such as using cool public buildings as heat shelters, alerting the community to health risks through multilingual campaigns, and encouraging residents to check in on their neighbours.

Longer term mitigation is also essential, including through creating equitable green corridors in cities, developing sustainable planning guidelines, investing in cooler roofs, pavements and road surfaces, and supporting innovative projects such as climate-smart playgrounds and bus shelters.

This week: We're taking part in the ICLEI World Congress in Malmö, Sweden. Read on to find out more about this sustainability-focused event.

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This week's featured content

Beating the heat in Miami-Dade County:
a coordinated approach

By Daniella Levine Cava, Mayor of Miami-Dade County

In Miami-Dade, we know heat! We live in the sub-tropics and heat has always been part of our lives. Even our basketball team is the Miami Heat.

However, as our climate changes and the impacts of heat grow, they are further compounded by urban development, hurricanes, floods, and sea level rise. We also know extreme heat does not impact people equally – disadvantaged communities, and Black and Hispanic people bear the brunt of the public health impacts. More and more, we are hearing from our residents that heat is impacting them in their daily lives, and that the old ways of dealing with it aren’t working as well.

For that reason, in April of 2021, I appointed Jane Gilbert to be the world’s first ever Chief Heat Officer. In conjunction with that landmark announcement, Miami-Dade County joined the City Champions for Heat Action initiative, a cornerstone program of the Extreme Heat Resilience Alliance.

I knew that appointing Miami-Dade’s first Chief Heat Officer would help expand, accelerate, and coordinate our efforts to protect people from heat and save lives. I am proud to say that our efforts are already proving fruitful.

LGIU Global Local Highlights


Benchmarking Urban Heat
Urban heat and the impact of climate change are already being felt in Australian cities and suburbs. This briefing looks at urban heat with a specific focus on benchmarking projects in four Sydney council areas, undertaken in collaboration with Western Sydney University. 
Read this briefing here.

Planning tensions of artificial turf
The use of artificial turf as an alternative sporting field surface has been a topic of contention among local governments, communities, and climate experts. This briefing examines this tension, focusing on the urban heat impacts of artificial turf.
Read this briefing here.

Councillors can support and help to build climate resilient communities
This briefing identifies extreme weather challenges facing UK councils and provides examples of where climate adaptation programmes have been implemented effectively.
Read this briefing here.

Innovation & Inspiration

Curated case studies and news from around the globe

USA: Urban heat islands mapped by volunteer citizen scientists

Hundreds of volunteers will monitor city-wide temperature variation on one of the hottest days of the year to map heat inequities and inform targeted local action. Local citizen scientists will travel across their neighbourhoods in the morning, afternoon and evening by car or bicycle, with mounted heat sensors recording temperatures, humidity, time and location, plus air quality in some locations. Running since 2017, this year’s campaign focuses on 14 USA cities and counties, plus Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and Freetown, Sierra Leone. It is overseen by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
NOAA / The Philadelphia Inquirer

Global: Cities pilot naming heatwaves to tackle ‘silent killer’

Seville, Spain, and Athens, Greece, will become the first cities to name and categorise extreme heat events in a pilot this summer that seeks to make heatwaves more visible. Inspired by the centuries-old naming of storms, the move intends to make the danger and health risks of extreme heat events more widely known within communities. Categories could be used to help trigger heat action plans, emergency staff reallocation, and opening air-conditioned shelters. The pilots will test the efficacy of naming heatwaves on community behaviour. California, USA, is exploring a similar ranking system.
Arsht Rock / The New York Times / The Washington Post

Canada: Deep lake water cooling provides less energy-intensive A/C

A public-private partnership between the City of Toronto and Enwave uses permanently cold water at the bottom of Lake Ontario to cool more than 100 buildings, including City Hall, a hospital and a sports stadium. Launched in 2004 and expanded since, Toronto’s deep lake water cooling system is the largest in the world and uses up to 70-90% less electricity than conventional air conditioning. Cold water is pumped from the lake to a largely passive heat exchanger system, which transfers coldness to a closed water supply loop that chills various buildings.
The Washington Post / UN Environment Programme

Australia: Innovative engagement helps urban forest to flourish

The City of Melbourne is deploying innovative initiatives to ensure its urban forest thrives in the long term, as a cost-effective cooling strategy. Initiatives include an interactive map of 70,000 trees’ locations, species and health, hyperlocal consultations asking residents what street trees they want, volunteer schemes, new vegetated tram tracks, and replacing imported European species with more climate-resilient native trees. Each tree has its own email address, intended for monitoring purposes, but which have effectively engaged community members who have sent love poems, thanks for bringing them joy, and best wishes for successful photosynthesis.
The New York Times

Policy & Resources

Urban heat island mitigation: Urban Cooling Toolbox
This easy-to-use C40 Cities guide proposes a range of ideas for cooling urban areas, from green, blue and grey infrastructure, to comms, policy and development. Each solution (from water façade cooling to green roofs) is succinctly summarised to highlight benefits and what to ‘keep in mind,’ plus links to real life examples.

Cooling plans: Beating the Heat: A Sustainable Cooling Handbook for Cities
This UNEP Cool Coalition handbook offers an in-depth resource to support mitigating extreme urban heat sustainably. It highlights a whole systems approach's value, identifies cooling obstacles, and features detailed guidelines for many themes to help cities develop a cooling action plan, supported by leading global case studies.

Urban forests: Which Plant Where – best practice guidelines
To ensure trees planted for shade survive, it is essential to select appropriate species and observe their growth closely. Brand new climate resilience database Which Plant Where offers free best practice guidelines about how to trial climate-ready street trees, establish new trees successfully, and monitor urban forests.

Cool surfaces: Cool Roofs and Cool Pavements Toolkit
This helpful Global Cool Cities Alliance guide is divided into ‘ready to learn’ and ‘ready to act.’ It introduces how cool roofs and pavements work and offers an overview of options for different climates. Then, it sets out practical implementation steps and highlights cool surface case studies from the USA, India and Canada.

Nature-based solutions: Thematic Atlas of Nature’s Benefits to Dar es Salaam
This ICLEI thematic atlas highlights key reasons and locations for preserving and boosting nature in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania – one of the fastest growing cities in the world – to address urban challenges including heat islands and flooding. 

Thanks for reading!

Next week, we'll be sharing a round-up of our coverage of this week's ICLEI World Congress 2021 - 2022 in Malmö, Sweden, featuring live reports, insights and reflections, and curated highlights from our sustainability work.

Are you going to be at the Malmö Summit? Reach out to us – we'd love to hear from you and connect at the event! 

Not going to be there but interested to learn more? Take a look at the events programme and let us know what sessions you’d like us to cover. 

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