Head of International Red Cross says we should brace for more killer heat waves

June was warmest ever - globally

It didn’t seem like it around here but globally, last month was the hottest June in 139 years of record-keeping.

And the first half of the year was the second warmest half-year on record.

2019 is expected to end up being one of the hottest years.

Eighteen of the 19 warmest years on record have occurred since 2001 — and the five hottest years have occurred in each of the last five years.

High heat lingers over Simcoe County

The high heat didn’t really arrive in Simcoe County until this month. It has been hot, and often humid, pretty much every day since we left June behind. And Environment Canada forecasts suggest it will linger – and intensify – over the next couple of days with highs in the low 30s and humidex values in the upper 30s.

France, Germany and the Czech Republic have endured extended heatwaves where temperatures have climbed into the 40s.

The head of the International Red Cross has warned that heatwaves have become one of the deadliest natural hazards facing humanity. Francesco Rocca says the threat posed by extreme heat will only become more serious and widespread. he goes on to say the harm they cause is both predictable and preventable. “The actions that authorities can take to save lives and significantly reduce suffering are simple and affordable,” he said.

Heatwaves the “silent killers” of climate change

Rocco presented a report to the United Nations recommending, among other things:

  • Building construction should reduce direct exposure
  • Hospitals should take steps to reduce direct sun exposure and increase their resilience to heat waves. They also need to prepare for a large influx of patients during heat events
  • Urban Greening: Shade from trees helps decrease surface temperatures, and landscaping aids with water runoff during storms.
  • Green roofs — rooftops planted with vegetation — can reduce the heat emitted back into the atmosphere
  • Increasing reflectivity by using white or light colors for pavement, rooftops and other structures, can help reduce the “urban heat island” effect.
  • Cool/permeable pavements, a relatively new concept, could help reduce surface temperatures.
  • Car-free zones and an increased reliance on public transit, walking and bicycles, could significantly reduce emissions of heat, pollutants and greenhouse gases
  • Water services, such as installing or repairing drinking fountains and spraying streets
  • Energy management plans should focus on managing peak electricity demand, work to incorporate passive cooling strategies in buildings, and ensure the availability of backup power for critical infrastructure

The report says that as many as 5 billion people live in areas of the world where heat waves can be forecast before they happen, which means there is time to take early action to save lives.

with files from CBS News

banner image via Flickr