Canberra needs to do more to prepare for unprecedented and difficult to imagine effects of climate change, with weeks of heat and bushfire smoke showing holes in the territory's disaster planning, experts say.
ACT has been a leader in the climate change field, and was the first Australian state or territory to declare a climate emergency in March last year, pledging to cut emissions and power Canberra with 100 per cent net renewable emissions by 2020.
But the smoke from nearby bushfires coupled with heat have exposed vulnerabilities in Canberra's capacity to adapt to changing weather events that are already here.
While praising the ACT government's leadership on climate action, Dr Liz Hanna from the Australian National University's Climate Change Institute said more needed to be done to help Canberra adapt, calling for a round table of experts and senior people to "break down the silos".
She said the closure of swimming pools and airconditioned public buildings in Canberra because of the smoke removed the first way people could ordinarily adapt to increased temperatures.
"One of the recommendations is to delay outdoor activity until it's cooler - it becomes problematic when we have relentless runs of heat runs," she said.
"The other thing we're realising is we have compounding problems, as in bushfire smoke and heat. Many people have not been able to use evaporative cooling because that brought the smoke in."
She said Canberra may need to turn more to reverse-cycle airconditioning, which would be easier when a higher density of solar panels was achieved.
"As far as how do we make Canberra more resilient we need to make preparations assuming that not only will each threat increase but they'll extend and we'll be having multiple threats all happening at the same time," she said.
Associate Professor Gemma Carey, from the Centre for Social Impact at UNSW, said the smoke haze inundating Canberra had shown many holes in ACT's disaster planning that now needed to be addressed.
She said this was apparent when she met with ACT Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith on Thursday about the distribution of P2 face masks.
Air pollution has been a major public health concern for weeks and Canberrans have struggled to get hold of the masks when needed.
"On pandemic planning, it showed our masks are kept in a central location which doesn't work when flights and cars are cut off - as just happened. Our pandemic stock of masks have none for children or toddlers which is a major problem," she said.
Dr Carey said Canberra had no stock of air purifiers for hospitals, or for public spaces like libraries to create places with clean air people can go.
"Babies being discharged to homes full of smoke is also a major public health concern," she said.
Dr Carey said even good homes could not withstand the level of particulates seen in Canberra. She called on the government to provide subsidised or free air purifiers.
"Purifiers are expensive and beyond the means of many," she said.
Dr Hanna said while climate induced health hazards like smoke haze - coupled with hot weather - were unprecedented, they were not unpredictable.
"Planning for previous events is always going to leave us under prepared," she said.
"What we need to do is to plan for events that are almost difficult to imagine."
An ACT government spokeswoman said the ACT's climate change strategy, released last year, included actions to manage risk in a changing climate.
"This includes measures to complement and strengthen the ACT's emergency response strategies as well as running targeted community outreach to encourage community preparedness for climate risks," she said.
"This will help provide the tools and guidance for building community capacity and resilience."
She said the plan included a number of actions aimed to make Canberra more resilient.
Those included reviewing planning regulations, working towards 30 per cent urban tree canopy, and reflecting climate change predictions in disaster and emergency prevention and preparedness, particularly for extreme heat, bushfire and flash flooding.
The government is also working on a timeframe to implement higher minimum energy performance and climate resilience standards for new buildings.
"The ACT government has updated its climate modelling to reflect the latest developments, which feeds into plans such as the 2019-24 Strategic Bushfire Management Plan," she said.