The Guardian’s view on the climate crisis and heat waves: a killer we must combat | Editorial

W.While Britons don jumpers and complain about the unusual cold, much of the world has been reeling from excessive temperatures. India has suffered its longest heatwave in history, with thermometers reaching 50°C in some places. Greece closed the Acropolis in the afternoon last week when temperatures reached 43C; A heat wave has never been seen so early in the year. Rising temperatures in the Sahel and West Africa caused morgues in Mali to run out of space this spring, while parts of Asia suffered in May.

Mexico and the southwestern United States have also endured devastating conditions; It was particularly shocking to hear Donald Trump again promise to “drill, baby, drill” at a rally where his supporters were taken to the hospital for heat exhaustion. These extreme weather events are increasing as the climate crisis worsens. Although the El Niño weather pattern contributed to heat waves over the past 12 months, they are becoming more frequent, extreme and prolonged thanks to global warming. By 2040, nearly half of the world’s people are likely to experience major heat waves, 12 times more than the historical average.

These represent a major threat to food security. But the immediate effects are also terrifying. In 2022, there were more than 60,000 heat-related deaths across Europe, 4,500 of them in the UK alone. In the United States, 11,000 people died last year. The already hot climates in some countries are becoming unbearable. The young, the elderly, pregnant women, and the disabled are particularly vulnerable to heat-related illness and death. So are the poorest, due to their living conditions and their work, which is often physically demanding. Experts say deaths are largely underreported and many occur long after temperatures drop. Doctors around the world have reported increasing rates of chronic kidney disease linked to forced labor in excessively hot and humid conditions. One study found that more than a third of heat deaths were attributable to the climate crisis.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and USAid co-sponsored a global heat summit this spring to push the issue up the agenda of governments and agencies. It is essential to address the underlying cause. But so is adaptation to face new challenges. That means everything from redesigning cities (in Colombia, Medellín’s “green corridors” house pedestrians and street vendors) to introducing social programs. Berlin’s 2022 “heating aid” plan for homeless people provided daytime shelter, cold showers and sunscreen.

Fundamentally, it means protecting workers. A recent UN report estimated that 70% of the world’s 3.4 billion workers will be exposed to excessive heat at some point. Some countries, such as China and Spain, have specific maximum temperatures above which outside labor must be suspended or additional mitigations must be implemented, even if their application is often woefully inadequate. Many more need such measures.

The number of workers who have died in the United States due to heat exposure has doubled in the past three decades, but the United States has no federal standards, although the Biden administration has asked the Occupational Safety and Health Association to draft them. . Industry lobbyists have fought legislative attempts to safeguard worker health. Surprisingly, in Florida – the hottest state in the country – Governor Ron DeSantis recently signed a bill prohibiting municipalities from implementing protections such as adequate breaks and access to water and shade. This is not only unfair to those who now work hard on construction sites and in the fields; For some, it can be deadly.

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