In 1995, Chicago suffered a violent heat wave that resulted in the deaths of over 700 citizens. Many were seniors, African American and living in public housing. Reports out that many of the seniors who died were isolated from their family and community and that others felt imprisoned in their home, fearful of venturing out into their neighbourhood, shocked North America.

In 2003, eight years after the Chicago catastrophe, countries in western Europe experienced a heat wave that resulted in 27,000 dead: 15,000 deaths in France, between 4,000 and 8,000 in Italy, 1,300 in Portugal, and 2,000 in Britain. Many were seniors. Many were poor.

In both situations, political leadership initially denied the extent of the problem and minimized the risk to vulnerable populations…