Intensifying Heatwaves Across Southern Europe, Asia, and United States Pose Health Risks, Urgent Climate Action Needed
Recent reports from the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) have sounded alarm bells as heatwaves intensified across regions in southern and Eastern Europe, Asia, and the United States. Extreme weather conditions have led to an increased risk of fatalities, prompting concerns over public safety.
In the U.S., citizens are grappling with a variety of extreme weather events, ranging from scorching heat to wildfire smoke-filled air and flood warnings. Additionally, a tropical storm has been heading towards the Pacific island state of Hawaii, adding to the list of weather-related challenges.
Cities like Phoenix, Arizona, have been hit hard, experiencing temperatures exceeding 110 degrees Fahrenheit (43 Celsius) for an unprecedented 19 consecutive days, surpassing their previous record of 18 days. Meanwhile, Vermont faced thunderstorms that threatened to exacerbate flooding in areas already saturated from heavy rainfall.
Overseas, the Mediterranean island of Sardinia and several Italian cities, including Rome, are bracing for soaring temperatures of up to 47 Celsius (116 Fahrenheit) and 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit), respectively. The WMO predicts a potential intensification of heatwaves in the northern hemisphere during the peak summer tourist season.
Disturbingly, Europe alone saw an estimated 61,000 heatwave-related deaths last year. The World Health Organisation’s regional director for Europe, Hans Henri P. Kluge, warns that the world must adapt to this “new reality” of killer heatwaves and other extreme weather phenomena.
In response to the crisis, the EU’s emergency response coordination centre has issued red alerts for high temperatures in several regions. Heatwaves have struck various locations worldwide, including California’s Death Valley and China’s northwest, triggering wildfires and deadly flooding in different countries.
The gravity of the situation has emphasized the urgency for climate cooperation between major greenhouse gas polluters like the United States and China. Talks between the two powers are underway, aiming to address the climate crisis and redefine their diplomatic relations.
The WMO warns that temperatures will exceed 40 degrees Celsius in North America, Asia, North Africa, and the Mediterranean for an extended period. The impact isn’t limited to daytime temperatures; overnight minimum temperatures are also rising, posing health risks, particularly for vulnerable populations.
Scientists attribute the intensification of heatwaves to climate change driven by greenhouse gas emissions, primarily from burning fossil fuels. Urgent and substantial emission reduction efforts are crucial to prevent further climate catastrophes.
According to the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service, 2022 and 2021 were the hottest summers on record in Europe. Italy, for instance, witnessed tourists seeking respite from the heat by splashing in Rome’s fountains and standing under giant fans near the Colosseum. However, the intense heat has led to challenges, such as long queues for taxis due to the city’s taxi shortage.
To address the current crisis, the health ministry in Italy issued red weather alerts for 20 major cities, with that number expected to rise. Governments and communities worldwide must urgently unite in taking comprehensive measures to combat climate change and mitigate the devastating effects of heatwaves and extreme weather events.