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Deaths due to heat at all-time high; heatwaves in Europe linked to 30% increase in fatalities



Europe, as per a recent report, is increasingly facing bouts of heat so intense that the human body is unable to cope, and subsequently, deaths related to heat have increased by 30 per cent in the last 20 years.

On Monday (Apr 22), the EU’s Copernicus climate monitoring service and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) noted that extreme heat poses particular health risks to outdoor workers, the elderly, and people with existing conditions like cardiovascular diseases and diabetes.

Last year’s extreme heatwave

In its report, Copernicus and WMO noted that in 2023, heatwaves pushed almost half — 41 per cent — of Southern Europe into strong, very strong or extreme heat stress. This, AFP reports, was the biggest area of Europe under such conditions in any day on record.

Last year, as far as the records go, was the hottest year globally, and Europe is the world’s fastest-warming continent.

In July 2023, parts of Italy recorded a seven per cent increase in deaths. The victims included a 44-year-old man who, while painting road markings in the northern town of Lodi, collapsed and died.

‘Feels like’ temperature

Last year, parts of Spain, France, Italy, and Greece experienced up to ten days of extreme heat stress. This, as per AFP, is defined as “feels like” temperature of more than 46 degrees Celsius, at which point immediate action must be taken to avoid heat stroke and other health issues.

Heat stress measures the environment’s impact on the human body, combining factors like temperature, humidity, and the body’s response to establish “feels like” temperature.

As per researchers, the extreme heat was majorly fuelled by greenhouse gas emissions, the El Niño weather pattern also played a role.

Carlo Buontempo, director of the Copernicus Climate Change Service, said, “Some of the events of 2023 took the scientific community by surprise because of their intensity, their speed of onset, extent, and duration”.

Last month, the EU’s environment agency urged governments to prepare healthcare systems for climate change and called for EU rules to protect outdoor workers from extreme heat.

(With inputs from agencies)

Moohita Kaur Garg

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