Councillors: We Need an Extreme Temperature Emergency Plan

Image result for extreme temperaturesCredit: Hokkaido University

Our 4.57-billion-year-old planet is divided into geological periods, typically lasting more than three million years. Now just 11,500 years into the current epoch, the Holocene, we are apparently crashing headlong into a new epoch, the Anthropocene–the era of rising atmospheric carbon and chemical pollution caused by humans.

The change is a result of industrial activity beginning in the 1800s, aided by automobile exhausts in the 1900s. In Canada, one of the world’s highest per capita polluters, average temperatures have risen a whopping 1.7 degrees Celsius just since 1948.

The clock is ticking. The UN Special Report on Global Warming warns that globally we have until 2030 to decarbonize to keep total global emissions to a moderately safe level of 1.5 degrees C. The hope is that this will avoid a catastrophic future of extreme natural disasters.

During the last year, we have seen lives lost in droughts, floods, forest fires, and heat waves. With rising temperatures, many plant and animal species are experiencing unprecedented collapse. To date, the IUCN Red List, the preeminent global directory of extinction threat, has examined less than 10 percent of known plant species. Plants have always been the source for many of our medicines.

The threat of widespread extinction includes 1 out of 8 birds; 1 out of 4 mammals; 1 out of 4 conifers; 1 out of 3 amphibians; 6 out of 7 marine turtles. 75% of genetic diversity of agricultural crops has been lost. 75% of the world’s fisheries are fully or over exploited. Up to 70% of the world’s known species risk extinction if the global temperatures rise by more than 3.5°C. 1/3rd of reef-building corals around the world are threatened with extinction. Over 350 million people suffer from severe water scarcity”

And mankind? The longevity in both men and women is falling simultaneously in 18 high-income countries. The journal Human Reproduction Update reports that the concentration of sperm in semen, also known as sperm count, has halved in the West since the 1970s. In Ontario, because of a lack of basic protections from chemical pollution, twice as many girls are being born as boys in Aamjiwnaang First Nation.

“A heatwave that affected Ontario and Quebec during the beginning of July resulted in at least 90 heat-related deaths as temperatures with humidex factor reached the into the 40s.” The Carbon Reality Project warns, “days of extremely high temperatures and poor air quality are only becoming more frequent and pose a threat to vulnerable populations the hardest – specifically, babies, children, and seniors, as well as people who work outdoors or are already ill.”

In Prince Edward County we can learn from these tragedies.

With careful preparation there is much County Council can do to minimize heat-related deaths if proper preparations are made now.

We have to be able to identify individuals at risk from severe heat events and identify the resources available to cope.

We need to be able to ask and answer:

      • Who are they?
      • Where do they live?
      • Do they have access to air conditioning?
      • Can they cope in the event of an electrical outage?
      • Do they have neighbours or health professionals who could come to their aid/or monitor their ability to cope.
      • Can they be contacted by phone?
      • If not, how can we contact them?
      • Do they have transportation available?
      • Does the County have in place appropriate cooling/heating areas for an extreme temperature event?

    We are living in a new epoch–a dangerous epoch that will tax our ability to cope.

    Mayor Ferguson and councillors, advance planning can save lives. We need an Extreme Temperature Emergency Plan. Without it, check the obits..

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