Have you ever experienced spending a few weeks in Europe during a heat wave, defined as “hell” by a Spanish meteorologist? If not, how do you feel about temperatures reaching 100 F in New York? Right now, a new heat wave is hitting New York City, forcing many people to stay inside with their AC on, which might lead to another blackout.
In any case, now you can face this heat wave prepared. On July 16th, President of the International Committee of the Red Cross Francesco Rocca, presented the new Red Cross guidelines to help cities prepare for heat waves (here is the link to see the full video from the press conference).
During the press conference, which took place at the UN on the margins of the High-level Political Forum (HLPF), Mr. Rocca talked about the humanitarian consequences of climate change. We are now facing about one climate disaster a week. Like most natural phenomena, heat waves also have the greatest impact on the poor and vulnerable. However, they are easily predictable and preventable. This is why it’s so important to invest more in disaster risk reduction. Countries such as Australia, Italy, the Netherlands, and India have already implemented some measures, but now all cities, big and small, will have the Red Cross guide with practical advice on how to prevent, tackle, and recover from a heat wave.
Climate change is a real global emergency and is affecting all countries. The consequences of such change, if unaddressed, will be devastating. In Rocca’s words, “too many will face food insecurity, forced migration, health diseases and new armed conflicts. This climate emergency will be a trigger for too many crises.” Indeed, according to some estimates, if the climate change continues at this pace, 140 million people will be forced to migrate by 2050. The cost of this to the planet and to other countries will be enormous.
The heat waves are becoming more and more common, and their intensity is continuing to rise. Every year they are affecting more and more people, and cities on power grids are disproportionately affected.
We need to send a strong message to governments, both national and local: we need to prevent the loss of life. And to do this, we need to invest in prevention of heat waves, instead of continuously cutting funds for climate change. Many cities are already collaborating with the FIRC in preventing heat waves, and now that this guide is available, every city can have it. It has been specifically written in simple, clear and understandable language for everyone to use. It now becomes the responsibility of local governments to implement those guidelines. It is also very important for cities to come together with local stakeholders, like public places or hospitals, to agree on working together when facing heat waves.
In short, we need a common understanding and a common, wider approach to tackle heat waves and climate change successfully. Now that the Red Cross’ guide is out, no mayor will have an excuse for not implementing the correct measures during heat waves.