Extreme heat: why it is a threat and how to deal with it

No place is completely exempt from the effects of extreme heat, considers Mauricio Rodas, former Mayor of Quito, Ecuador.

Mexico City

The extreme heat it represents the most serious threat facing humanity at this time, said Mauricio Rodas, former Mayor of Quito, Ecuador.

A study published in The Lancet last year indicates that more than 356,000 deaths in 2019 were linked to heat in nine countries, including Mexico.

The heat extreme is also associated with more deaths than those caused by other effects of climate change. In the United States, for example, an investigation by the Adrienne Arsht-Rockefeller Foundation (Arsht-Rock) determined that in 2020 it caused 20 times more deaths than hurricanes, Rodas said.

“It is not a visually striking phenomenon, like a hurricane or a flood. It kills in a much more discreet way and that is why it is known as a silent killer,” said the coordinator of the Leading Cities in Action against Extreme Heat initiative of the Center for Arsht-Rock resilience.

In the cities, Rodas specified, the risk of heat end is greater. For this reason, he urged local authorities around the world to consider it, along with the other effects of climate change, as a transversal element of urban planning.

“We have to focus on reducing CO2 levels and focus on mitigation actions, but we also have to do it in terms of adaptation,” he stressed in the framework of his participation in the forum Heat Extreme and Biodiversity in Cities convened by the Botanical and Zoological Society of Sinaloa and the Culiacán Botanical Garden.

How to prepare?

One way to prepare against heat One extreme is to promote the creation of green corridors with areas rich in trees, as they help reduce temperature and provide shade, explained Rodas, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania.

Another idea is to apply white paint on the roofs of houses to reflect sunlight. Santiago de Chile seeks to reduce the temperature of the interiors by 3 to 4 degrees Celsius with this measure.

In turn, the streets can be covered with cold pavement or gray asphalt, as is the case in Phoenix, Arizona, which can help reduce the temperature by up to 12 degrees Celsius.

The first step in getting ready is to perform a diagnostic to establish the level of threat posed by the heat extreme, said the founder of Ethos, Public Policy Laboratory.

Then, an action plan must be created with a vulnerability map and health protocols to care for the most vulnerable population, such as the elderly, children, pregnant people, and those living on the streets.

Cities, he explained, are warmer than rural areas due to the island effect of heatwhich occurs because the urban infrastructure absorbs the heat instead of reflecting it.

To this is added that they usually have a limited area of ​​vegetation and a high number of vehicles that generate emissions that contribute to increasing the temperature.

“Cities are true laboratories of innovation in climate action around the world. They have shown extraordinary leadership in adopting innovative actions, becoming an example for national or state governments,” Rodas stressed.

exemplary actions

So they face the heat extreme different cities around the world, according to Rhodes.

  • Athens, Greece: A 1,500-year-old Roman aqueduct is being restored to irrigate the green areas it passes through.
  • Freetown, Sierra Leone: residents seek to plant, care for and report the growth of a million trees through an app to refresh this capital.
  • Miami-Dade, United States: This Florida county established an annual season of heat to raise public awareness of the threat posed by heat extreme.
  • Seville, Spain: Developed and implemented the first system to categorize and name waves of heat according to their level of threat to human health.

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Extreme heat: why it is a threat and how to deal with it


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