Athens heat director sounds extreme temperature warning at TED

“The whole world was shocked. And it was also the first time we heard about the heated dome.

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For Eleni Myrivili, heat manager for the city of Athens, protecting vulnerable people from the deadly threat of extreme temperatures is a “human security issue”.

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“We talk about national security, but at the local government level we talk about human security,” Myrivili said after her TED talk in Vancouver on Wednesday. “So it needs to be on the record, that if we’re talking about human security, (disadvantaged neighborhoods) need to be at the center of policy-making for a few years.”

Myrivili gave a TED talk on how cities need to rethink to deal with extreme heat, an often overlooked consequence of climate change because it “doesn’t come with the drama of rooftops being thrown up and streets turned into rivers”.

“The heat is quietly destroying,” she added, which is a lesson BC learned the hard way during last summer’s heat dome that captured the world’s attention, including that of Myrivili.

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“We went through the same thing,” two months later, she said, “and it was mind-blowing because you had even higher temperatures than us, which is insane.”

Buildings in Lytton, British Columbia Friday, March 18, 2022. Nearly the entire town was destroyed by a wildfire that swept through June 30, 2021. Reconstruction work in Lytton is just beginning and progressing slowly.( Photo by Jason Payne/PNG)
Buildings in Lytton, British Columbia Friday, March 18, 2022. Nearly the entire town was destroyed by a wildfire that swept through June 30, 2021. Reconstruction work in Lytton is just beginning and progressing slowly.( Photo by Jason Payne/PNG) Photo by Jason Payne /PNG

In British Columbia, the village of Lytton was scorched by a record temperature of 49.6°C on June 30 before burning down due to a wildfire. In British Columbia, 569 people have been killed by heat-related illness.

“The whole world was shocked.” Myrivili said, “And it was also the first time we heard about the heated dome. You’ve put the heated dome on the map.

She knows that Vancouver has already stepped up its preparation and response to future heat events, but, when it comes to “human security,” Myrivili said policy also needs to follow.

“It’s amazing, all the cities that you can see from above, you can tell where the popular neighborhoods are, because those are the areas that don’t have trees,” she said.

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Public space needs to be improved in these neighborhoods with an emphasis on parks and urban forestry, which should be a plus in a place like Vancouver.

A helicopter carrying a bucket of water flies over a pyrocumulus cloud, also known as a fire cloud, produced by the Lytton Creek Wildfire burning in the mountains above Lytton, British Columbia, on Sunday August 15, 2021.
A helicopter carrying a bucket of water flies over a pyrocumulus cloud, also known as a fire cloud, produced by the Lytton Creek Wildfire burning in the mountains above Lytton, British Columbia, on Sunday August 15, 2021. Photo by DARRYL DYCK /THE CANADIAN PRESS

During her speech, Myrivili, who is also an assistant professor at the University of the Aegean, said that awareness, preparation and redesign must be the main focus when talking about heat response.

“Awareness means we recognize the threat,” Myrivili said. “It is sometimes difficult to persuade people, especially in cold climates, to take heat exposure seriously.”

So, through a program sponsored by the Arsht-Rockefeller Foundation, Myrivili is leading a pilot project to classify heat events in the same way as hurricanes. You wouldn’t expect pizza delivery during a Category 4 hurricane, but “we don’t have such considerations or policies regarding a Category 4 heat wave, as there is no Category 4 heat wave. category 4,” Myrivili said.

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Municipalities in British Columbia have stepped up their heat response measures after the June heat emergency, opening cooling centers and stepping up the emergency response to what has been classified as a heat event. level 2 in August. This covers the preparedness stage that Myrivili talked about, where cities step in to protect vulnerable citizens through measures such as the buddy system in New York that allows citizens to check on neighbors, or the response app to Athens Heat which gives real-time risk updates and maps of where cooling centers are located.

Next, cities need to rethink themselves and build more “green and blue” infrastructure, including parks, green spaces and waterways. Trees, she says, can cool the surrounding landscape by five degrees.

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In Vancouver, however, officials are falling behind on some of the lessons, said city planner Andy Yan. Policies to reduce red tape in development have led to the city losing tree cover when it is expected to increase, he said.

“In a place like Vancouver, it’s a challenge between…in a year, the hellish characteristics of climate change,” said Yan, director of the City Program at Simon Fraser University. “And in Vancouver, it’s not just hell and flooding, it may be the problem of no water or less water. And I think all of this puts a particular strain on municipal and civic infrastructure.

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