Billions to reduce deadly heat by 2 degrees

2023-05-25 08:42:00, Sociale CNA

Billions to reduce deadly heat by 2 degrees

With the current changes being made in climate policy billions are being given to deal with the deadly heat. Meanwhile, a global network of climate experts are dealing with this problem in their own cities.

About 2 billion people will live in dangerously high temperatures by the end of this century if climate policies continue on current trajectories, says a new study published in the journal Nature Sustainability. The figure would make up 23 percent of the world's estimated population at that time.

If the climate warms more than thought, a possible scenario amid current policies, then not 2 but 3.3 billion people will face extreme temperatures at the end of the century.

The study, conducted by scientists from the University of Exeter in Great Britain and Nanjing University in China, says that 60 million people already live in dangerous temperature levels, characterized by an average of 29 degrees Celsius (84.2 degrees Fahrenheit) or more.

How do high temperatures harm human health?

Billions to reduce deadly heat by 2 degrees

Extreme heat can cause a range of illnesses as well as death, says the World Health Organization (WHO). This is about heatstroke and hyperthermia. High temperatures also worsen chronic diseases and have a direct effect on disease transmission, air quality and vital infrastructure.

The elderly, infants and children, pregnant women, workers who work outdoors and perform manual labor, athletes and the poor are particularly at risk from high temperatures.

According to this study, the reduction of temperatures targeted by the Paris agreement, by 1.5 degrees Celsius above the level of temperatures of the pre-industrial period, left at the end of the century still 400 million people exposed to temperatures of dangerous levels.

People living in India, Sudan and Nigeria will be greatly affected by high temperatures even with a 1.5 degree reduction, while a 2.7 degree reduction in temperatures will have a major impact on countries such as the Philippines, Pakistan and Nigeria.

Calculating the human costs of climate change

Billions to reduce deadly heat by 2 degrees

The scientists say their study marks a turning point in the tendency to view the impact of climate in economic rather than human terms. "These trends irreversibly destroy values ??by moving them away from human life and focusing them on wealth," Ashish Ghadiali, a climate activist and co-author of the study, told Deutsche Welles, adding that creating models that focus on the economy "there is more value to life in New York than to life in Bangladesh."

Most other study models prioritize the population today rather than the population in the future, and inequalities in global warming will thus be "both globally spread and transmitted from one generation to the next." the other,” says Ghadiali. 

"Essentially these models put more value on my life than my children's and certainly my grandchildren's lives," he says. If you look at how certain places affect high levels of heat, scientists say that the current carbon dioxide emissions produced by 1.2 ordinary US citizens are enough to condemn future humans to living in extreme heat. 

Despite the disproportionate emission of carbon dioxide, the US population is less at risk of dangerous temperatures.

How can people protect themselves from high temperatures?

Billions to reduce deadly heat by 2 degrees

Previous studies have shown that cities are much more affected by rising temperatures, due to the "heat island effect". Buildings, roads and infrastructure absorb and radiate the sun's heat more than the natural environment such as forests and waters. , causing urban temperatures to rise sometimes up to 15 degrees Celsius more than rural temperatures.

Cities around the world are defining new roles for heating experts, tasking them with combating the inevitable rise in temperatures. One of them is Cristina Huidobro, who has taken up this task for the capital of Chile, Santiago, in March 2022. "Many cities of the world face extreme warming, but the solutions and the way they deal with this problem are many, very local,” Huidobro told Deutsche Welles.

However, says Huidobro, all cities broadly follow a three-pronged strategy: preparation, awareness and adaptation.

Preparedness is about categorizing heat waves in the same way as other natural disasters, or creating an alert system to increase city liability.

Huidobro says awareness is an integral part of this role. "Taking care of yourself during extreme heat is very simple, drink water, get in the shade and rest," she says. "No one should die from extreme heat."

The third point is the adaptation of cities to the new reality, with high temperatures, creating more green spaces in the city.

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

"Trees, trees, trees everywhere. They bring more greenery to the city," says Huidobro.

But planting trees is not as easy as people think. "We're putting trees in really busy streets, like major city streets that are filled with concrete. You have to dig a hole and do some civil works to plant the trees."

Also, this is not a quick solution to the issue of urban heat, because trees need time to grow.

"The idea is to plant the tree that will provide shade in 20 or 30 years," says Huidobro.

American cities battle extreme heat 

Billions to reduce deadly heat by 2 degrees

The United States, where according to previous studies 12,000 people die a year from the heat, has appointed three experts to deal with the heat in Phoenix, Miami and Los Angeles.

The Californian city of Los Angeles, which has been rated as very sensitive to natural disasters including heat waves, recently launched a campaign to create more "resilience hubs", cabins to take yourself by finding shade and coolness, especially in cities rated as high risk. There is meanwhile a network of refreshment centers set up mainly in libraries, where people can go to escape the heat.

They are also working there to create an early warning system for heat waves.

Phoenix, a city in the heart of the Sonoran Desert, is working on several adaptations, including building refreshing sidewalks that are coated with an adhesive material that reflects the sun. The sticky material makes the streets a few degrees cooler and keeps the night air cool.

The city of Miami, Florida has made plans for urban tree planting campaigns and has spent millions of dollars creating air conditioning units for residents living in public buildings, while providing social assistance to low-income families to helped them pay their energy bills.

But Huidobro of Santiago says that air conditioning is generally the last resort to adapt, because of the consequences it has for the climate. Santiago wants to plant "33 pockets of forest" that can be used for shelter during climate crises, especially near schools and health centers. They are an alternative to air-conditioned cooling centers and have been developed in the US and Europe. "During the Waves hot people can go inside these nature-based cooling centers and find shade, rest and drink water," says Huidobro./ DW

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