Turning up the heat against climate inaction / Columns / The Foreigner

Turning up the heat against climate inaction. As Norwegians return to the grind after the summer holidays, many dream of the heat wave that was. My previous column addressed Europe tackling heat waves. Too much seems to be done reactively when it is too late for those who suffer. Instead, we could accept and prepare for the fact that heat waves do sometimes occur in the summer. Climate change does affect heat waves, but does it affect our vulnerability and response to these?

climatechange, heatwaves



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Turning up the heat against climate inaction

Published on Monday, 12th August, 2013 at 07:33 under the columns category, by Ilan Kelman.

As Norwegians return to the grind after the summer holidays, many dream of the heat wave that was.

Why waste water in a heat wave?
Why waste water in a heat wave?
Photo: Ilan Kelman


My previous column addressed Europe tackling heat waves. Too much seems to be done reactively when it is too late for those who suffer.

Instead, we could accept and prepare for the fact that heat waves do sometimes occur in the summer. Climate change does affect heat waves, but does it affect our vulnerability and response to these?

A heat wave in itself is not necessarily a disaster. Yet it frequently becomes hazardous to people and infrastructure.

As we see, people die from dehydration, overheating, breathing difficulties, and heart attacks. Others drown while swimming to cool off, or they fall from their roof while sunbathing. Rail lines buckle. Water supply systems become overstretched.

All these consequences are preventable. They emerge when society's vulnerability is exposed by a hazardous situation, such as a heat wave. Examples of this could be perhaps older adults living alone, or infrastructure that is inadequately designed and maintained. These vulnerabilities exist irrespective of climate change.

We could choose to act to reduce them instead of letting these vulnerabilities persist. We could invest in rail lines which tolerate higher temperatures, and install water saving devices that would always function. We could have gardens which do not require watering.

Taxes provide social services, ensuring that the elderly are well cared for and receive help when it gets too hot. Then we will experience fewer disasters, irrespective of how climate change affects heat waves,

Climate change is indeed likely to make heat waves more intense, more frequent, and longer lasting across Europe. We are at fault for that. We should put more into tackling climate change. But let's not blame climate change for our own choices to create and perpetuate people's and infrastructure's vulnerability.

That applies to heat waves along with many other natural hazards. Vulnerability to natural hazards is created by society and we should choose to reduce it.

Dr. Ilan Kelman is aSenior Research Fellowat the Center for International Climate and Environmental Research - Oslo (CICERO).



Published on Monday, 12th August, 2013 at 07:33 under the columns category, by Ilan Kelman.

This post has the following tags: climatechange, heatwaves.





  
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