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Home » Heatwaves claimed 70,000 lives between 2010-2019

Heatwaves claimed 70,000 lives between 2010-2019

Heatwave: Last month was fourth warmest October in 143 years

In the near future, heat waves will become more frequent, more intense, longer and more deadly. The agencies ask the governments of the world to prepare to deal with these phenomena early, which will continue to increase as long as climate change continues out of control.

The United Nations humanitarian agency (OCHA) and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies issued their first joint report, which includes the devastation of previous episodes and lists ways to prepare and limit the damage that may come.

Between 2010 and 2019, 38 heat waves killed more than 70,000 people worldwide, according to the report “Extreme Heat: Preparing for Future Heat Waves.”

The figure, which is probably underestimated, adds to the effects of this phenomenon on the lives and livelihoods of the population.

Heat waves will become more frequent, more intense, longer and more deadly. Source: Unsplash/George Chandrinos

That cost comprises more than a sixth of the more than 410,000 deaths from extreme weather and climate-related catastrophes in that period, the report said, citing earlier Red Cross estimates.

Limits of human resistance

These organizations point out that there are limits beyond which people exposed to extreme heat and humidity cannot survive and that there are limits beyond which societies can no longer adapt.

“Under current trajectories, heat waves could reach and exceed these physiological and social limits over the coming decades, especially in regions such as the Sahel, South Asia and Southwest Asia”.

Heat waves could reach and exceed these physiological and social limits/Wikimedia Commons

Such a situation will result in “large-scale suffering and loss of human life, population movements and worsening inequalities”, warn the two organizations. According to the report, almost everywhere reliable statistics are available, heat waves are the deadliest weather hazard.

Among their proposals, the two organizations said some humanitarian groups are testing the deployment of emergency shelters, “green” roofs, refreshment centers and changes to school calendars to mitigate the impact of heat waves, which many scientists say become more frequent due to climate change caused by humanity.

The number of poor people living in extreme heat conditions in urban areas will jump by 700% by 2050/Nicolas Houdayer

In addition to that, governments were urged to improve their early warning systems for heat waves and to give more training and funding to local emergency services, which are often the first to respond to heat waves.

The agencies said coordination between humanitarian groups, development organizations and climate experts also needs to be improved.

Highest increases in Africa and Asia

The organizations call for urgently making significant and sustainable investments to mitigate the impact of climate change and support the long-term adaptation of the most vulnerable populations. 

According to a study cited by the report, the number of poor people living in extreme heat conditions in urban areas will jump by 700% by 2050. The highest increases are expected to occur in Africa and Asia. “The climate crisis is intensifying humanitarian emergencies around the world. To avoid its most devastating effects, we must invest equally in adaptation and mitigation, especially in countries most at risk.”

The UN and the Red Cross emphasize that it is equally important to recognize that adaptation to extreme heat has limits. Some measures taken, such as increasing energy-intensive air conditioning, are costly, environmentally unsustainable and contribute to climate change. If emissions of the greenhouse gases that cause climate change are not ‘aggressively’ reduced, the world will face ‘extreme levels of heat hitherto unimaginable’, warn the two organisations.

Deadly disaster

They already kill thousands of people each year and will become more and more deadly as climate change increases, say in the report Martin Griffiths, head of the UN humanitarian agency, and Jagan Chapagain, Secretary General of the IFRC.

almost everywhere reliable statistics are available, heat waves are the deadliest weather hazard/Flickr

As per the report, almost everywhere reliable statistics are available, heat waves are the deadliest weather hazard. They already kill thousands of people each year and will become more and more deadly as climate change increases, say in the report Martin Griffiths, head of the UN humanitarian agency, and Jagan Chapagain, Secretary General of the IFRC.

Heat waves are behind some of the deadliest disasters on record. The report recalls the heavy toll of the 2003 heat wave in Europe which killed more than 70,000 people, and a heat wave in Russia in 2010 killed more than 55,000 people.

According to the report, experts predict very high death rates from extreme heat, “comparable in magnitude, by the end of the century, to all cancers”.

“Unimaginable levels of extreme heat”

According to a study cited by the report, the number of the poor living in extreme heat conditions in urban areas will jump by 700% by 2050. The highest increases are expected to occur in West Africa and Asia from the South East. “The climate crisis is intensifying humanitarian emergencies around the world. To avoid its most devastating effects, we must invest equally in adaptation and mitigation, especially in countries most at risk,” said Jagan Chapagain.

The United Nations and OCHA warned in particular about the significant impact on developing countries. Bangladesh, they noted, has experienced up to 20% excess daily mortality during heat waves compared to the average day.

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