STORY: Heatwave Linked to Climate Change – WMO, WHO
SOURCE: UNTV CH
ASPECT RATIO: 16:9
DATELINE: 19 July 2022, GENEVA, SWITZERLAND
WMO Warns of Frequent Heatwaves until the 2060s
Extreme heat in western Europe is causing devastating wildfires in France and Spain, unprecedented drought in Italy and Portugal, and brought to Great-Britain its highest-ever recorded temperature of 40 degrees Celsius today. With temperatures expected to remain above normal until the middle of next week, the World Metrological Organization (WMO) warned that heatwaves are and will occur more and more frequently. The pattern is linked to the observed warming of the planet that can be attributed to human activity, raising serious concerns for the planet’s future.
“We are expecting to see major impacts on agriculture. During the previous heatwaves in Europe, we lost big parts of harvest. And under the current situation -we are already having the global food crisis because of the war in Ukraine- this heatwave is going to have a further negative impact on agricultural activities” warned Petteri Taalas, Secretary-General of the WMO at a press conference today in Geneva.
In several countries, several sectors of the economies -including tourism- are suffering as a result.
“The negative trend in climate will continue at least until 2060s, independent of our success in climate mitigation”, Mr. Taalas added. “We have already lost the game concerning the melting of glaciers. We expect that the melting of glaciers will continue for the coming hundreds of years or even coming thousands of years anyhow. And also, sea level rise will continue for the same period”.
Mr. Taalas was wearing short sleeves and a red and blue tie which he chose to illustrate the warming trend he explained.
Air pollution and impact on health
The heatwave also acts as a lid, traps atmospheric pollutants, causing the degradation of air quality and adverse health consequences, particularly to vulnerable people. In the 2003 heatwave, only in Europe, 70 thousand people died.
“Climate change is affecting our health on many ways, not only by heatwaves which are having direct consequences in a number of diseases and conditions, but as well because it will be touching the pillars of our health alerted Maria Neira, Director Environment and Health at the WHO as she explained the access to food and water is at stake, as “we will not have good agriculture production and there will be water scarcity for sure”.
99% of the global population is breathing air that does not meet the health standards set by WHO, she said, with a great impact on people with respiratory and cardiovascular conditions.
“The best solution to this will be, again, being very ambitious on tackling the causes of this global warming. We have been alerting for a long time that climate change is affecting very much human health and therefore taking measures to reach the zero carbon and accelerating the transition to clean, renewable sources of energy.”
More deaths among the elderly and those with pre-existing health conditions are feared due to the ongoing heatwave, and the challenges for health services to face the increased demand.