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Monday 08 July, 2024
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Weather Update: Deadly Heat With 2-Degree Limit Overshoot Predicted

BY Faizan Ahmed May 24, 2023. 12:25 am UPDATED: May 24, 2023. 12:25 am

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Current climate change policies will expose billions to life-threatening heat. However, a global network of heat police is addressing the issue in their own locations.

According to recent study published in the journal Nature Sustainability, if climate policies continue on their current path, almost 2 billion people would live in dangerous heat conditions by the end of the century. That equates to 23% of the world’s estimated population.

If the climate continues to rise rapidly — a possibility under present practices — around 3.3 billion people might endure severe temperatures by the end of the century.

The researchers from the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom and Nanjing University in China discovered that 60 million individuals are already exposed to harmful heat levels, defined as an average temperature of 29 degrees Celsius (84.2 degrees Fahrenheit) or higher.

How Do Hot Temperatures Harm Human Health?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), extreme heat can cause a variety of ailments and even death. Heatstroke and hyperthermia are two examples. Extreme temperatures aggravate chronic diseases and have an indirect impact on disease transmission, air quality, and key infrastructure.

Higher temperatures are especially dangerous for the elderly, babies and children, pregnant women, outdoor and manual laborers, athletes, and the destitute.

The analysis discovered that even limiting warming to the lower Paris Accord target of 1.5 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels will still expose 400 million people to unsafe heat levels by the end of the century.

Even 1.5 degrees of warming will have a significant impact on people in India, Sudan, and Niger, while 2.7 degrees would have a massive impact on countries such as the United States.

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Calculating The Human Cost of Climate Change

Researchers said their study breaks the trend of modeling climate impacts in economic rather than human terms.

“It invariably distorts value away from human lives and towards centers of wealth,” Ashish Ghadiali, a climate activist and co-author of the paper, told DW, adding that modeling focused on economics “places more value on a life in New York State than in Bangladesh.”

Most other models also prioritize current populations over future ones, with inequality in global warming being “both globally distributed, but also intergenerational,” said Ghadiali.

“It fundamentally values my life more than my children’s lives and certainly more than my grandchildren’s lives,” he said.

Looking at individual countries’ impacts on dangerous heat levels, researchers found that current emissions from 1.2 average US citizens condemn a future human to live in extreme heat. Despite having disproportionate emissions, the US population faces a much lower threat from dangerous temperatures.

How Can People be Protected From Extreme Heat?

Previous research has indicated that cities are more prone to harmful temperature spikes owing to the “heat island effect.” Buildings, roads, and infrastructure absorb and radiate more heat from the sun than natural surroundings such as woods and bodies of water, elevating urban temperatures by up to 15 degrees Celsius in some circumstances when compared to rural locations.

To deal with the anticipated rise in temperatures, cities throughout the world are creating the new position of chief heat officer. Cristina Huidobro, who will take over as mayor of Chile’s capital Santiago in March 2022, is one of them.

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“Many cities in the world face extreme heat, but the solutions and the way you approach it are very, very local,” Huidobro told DW.

Still, Huidobro said, they all broadly follow a three-pronged strategy — preparedness, awareness, and adaptation.

Preparedness can include categorizing heat waves in the same way as other natural disasters, or setting up an alert threshold to trigger a certain city response.

Huidobro said raising awareness of the dangers of heat is an integral part of the role.

“Taking care of yourself in an extreme heat event is really simple — drink water, seek shade, and rest,” she said. “Nobody has to die from extreme heat.”

The third prong is adapting the city to the new reality of high temperatures, largely by creating more green spaces in the city.

Santiago has just launched an urban reforestation project to plant 30,000 trees across the city and develop strategies that treat the trees as part of the urban infrastructure.

“Trees, trees, trees, trees everywhere. It’s bringing more green into the city,” Huidobro said.

But planting trees isn’t as easy as people think.

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“We’re putting trees in really dense streets, like in the main avenues of the city, where you have a lot of cement. You need to dig a hole and really do some civil work.”

It’s also not an instant solution to urban heat as trees need time to grow.

“The whole idea is to try to plant the shade that we’re going to have in the next 20 or 30 years,” said Huidobro.

The US Cities Fighting Extreme Heat

In the United States, where prior studies have indicated that 12,000 people die prematurely from heat each year, three chief heat officers have been named thus far, in Phoenix, Miami, and Los Angeles.

The Californian city of Los Angeles, which is listed as the most vulnerable to natural catastrophes such as heat waves, has initiated a drive to develop additional “resilience hubs” in high-risk regions with shade and cooling powered by renewables. It already has a network of cooling facilities, mostly in libraries, where people may go to cool off throughout the summer.

They are also developing a heat wave early warning system.

Phoenix, located in the Sonoran Desert, is working on a variety of adjustments, including the construction of cooling pavements with a unique sealant that reflects the sun. The sealer keeps the night air colder by making the walkways several degrees cooler to the touch.

The city of Miami, Florida, is planning significant urban tree-planting efforts and has spent millions of dollars on air-conditioning equipment for public housing tenants while simultaneously offering financial aid to help low-income households meet their energy expenses.

However, according to Santiago’s Huidobro, air conditioning is often a last alternative for adaptation due to its climatic implications.

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Santiago intends to plant 33 “pocket forests” that will be utilized as climatic shelters, particularly around schools and health care institutions. These are alternatives.

“During a heat wave people can go inside these nature-based cooling centers and get their shade, and rest and drink water,” said Huidobro.

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