The heat wave spectre haunting Europe: Basking in ignorance / Columns / The Foreigner

The heat wave spectre haunting Europe: Basking in ignorance. Areas of northern Norway broke 30°C in June. Oslo has recently experienced the high 20s. Other northern European cities--Amsterdam, London, and Hamburg--have been basking in temperatures several degrees higher. That was enough for heat warnings. Some commentators ridiculed the concerns and most of the population welcomes the broiling sun, but the dangers are real. London-based researchers estimated that this month's heat killed over 700 people around the UK. They suggested that the final toll would likely be far higher, with the heat possibly fatal for the elderly and those with breathing and heart difficulties.

co2emissions, climatechange, globalwarming



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The heat wave spectre haunting Europe: Basking in ignorance

Published on Friday, 26th July, 2013 at 11:46 under the columns category, by Ilan Kelman.

Areas of northern Norway broke 30°C in June. Oslo has recently experienced the high 20s. Other northern European cities--Amsterdam, London, and Hamburg--have been basking in temperatures several degrees higher.

An empty beach (illustration photo)
An empty beach (illustration photo)
Photo: alexyv/Flickr


That was enough for heat warnings. Some commentators ridiculed the concerns and most of the population welcomes the broiling sun, but the dangers are real.

London-based researchers estimated that this month's heat killed over 700 people around the UK. They suggested that the final toll would likely be far higher, with the heat possibly fatal for the elderly and those with breathing and heart difficulties.

Choices by oneself or by others can also create risk. Deaths were reported regarding a sunbather killed by falling off their roof, soldiers collapsing and dying during training marches, and numerous drownings as people seek to cool off.

Water supply can be a problem. Urban centres in Norway are not at major risk for excessive water demand since most Norwegians are away in July, on holiday. Yet parts of eastern Norway introduced a hosepipe ban. Norwegians are not immune from water shortages.

Neither is England despite its rainy reputation. Several water companies admitted to supply problems and asked customers to curb their use. Meanwhile, train lines buckled causing major travel delays. Technology both old and new technology is failing under heat.

All this happened during the long, hot summer of 2003 as well, however, so heat waves in Europe are nothing new. We nonetheless seem to encounter the same difficulties and the same consequences each time.

There are two choices here. We could accept this, claiming that the deaths and infrastructure problems are simply part of living with extremes, or we could support those who need help while investing in services and equipment which do not break down during prolonged spells of high temperatures.

The former seems to be the default selection, given our 2013 experience. We know that heat waves happen, we know how to avoid dreadful ramifications, and we witness the same, repeated problems.

Ignoring risk might be the opiate of the masses.

Dr. Ilan Kelman is a Senior Research Fellow at the Center for International Climate and Environmental Research - Oslo (CICERO)



Published on Friday, 26th July, 2013 at 11:46 under the columns category, by Ilan Kelman.

This post has the following tags: co2emissions, climatechange, globalwarming.





  
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