October 12, 2022
I found it appropriate as we geared up for our trip that the Nation & World section in our local newspaper carried an article about the effect heat waves are having on European travel. Americans have faced travel restrictions for the last two years and now that the restrictions have eased more travelers are scheduling trips overseas. However, these trips are not “business as usual”. The heat waves are changing where and when travelers take their vacations. Travelers who had originally scheduled trips around the Mediterranean are now opting for Scandinavian vacations. Others have postponed their trips until later in the year, opting for October rather than the June or July vacation they originally scheduled. These changes are happening in hope of missing the rounds of heat waves predicted for next year and beyond.
When I looked online, I found heat waves are a prolonged period of hot and humid weather. These temperatures vary depending on what is considered normal for the place and season. The waves occur when high pressure in the atmosphere forces hot air down and traps is near the ground. The high pressure then acts like a lock and prevents the hot air from rising. This also prevents rain from falling and the air continues to get hotter. These waves are classified as low, severe, and extreme. Climate change has brought both more extreme and more frequent heat waves. The World Weather Attribution reports what was considered a 100-year extreme is now 30 times more likely to occur today.
As I scanned through the article, I found the United Nations (UN) and the International Red Cross (IRC) issued a joint report (a first) chronicling past waves and suggesting ways to prepare for the future. There have been 38 heat waves worldwide from 2010 to 2019, and they have accounted for more than 70,000 deaths, a likely underestimate. This totaled more than one sixth of the 410,000 disaster related deaths from weather over the same span. Heat waves account for some of the deadliest disasters on record. While the drought in Somalia is pushing the country to the brink of famine, when combined with extreme heat it becomes far deadlier. These effects are particularly hard on developing countries. Bangladesh experienced as much as a 20% increase in deaths on days with heat waves. Wealthier countries have the resources to allow people to adapt but poorer countries do not have the resources to overcome the heat waves.
THOUGHTS: There are several attempts being made to mitigate the extreme heat waves affecting the world. Emergency housing and cooling stations are being built for people to get out of the heat. Materials used for roofs and pavements are being changed for materials that absorb less solar energy and reflect more sunlight. School calendars are shifted to mitigate the impact of the heat waves. These efforts all take time and money, something developing countries do not have. Climate change has been brought on by excesses of the industrialized countries. It seems fair they should also absorb a large portion of the cost to mitigate the problem. Act for all. Change is coming and it starts with you.