As the planet grapples with the escalating effects of climate change, extreme weather events are becoming more frequent and intense. Heatwaves, in particular, are posing a significant threat to human health, the environment, and daily life. These events have resulted in death tolls, with last summer’s heatwave killing more than 61,000 people across Europe. Heat-related illnesses, particularly among vulnerable populations, are escalating concerns.
Governments and communities worldwide are mobilising to combat the heatwave menace. Europe, in particular, is taking proactive measures. The World Health Organization (WHO) has issued guidance to support national and local authorities in preparing for extreme heat events. Various cities have implemented heat action plans, established cooling centres, and educated residents on the risks associated with heatwaves.
Spain and Greece have enforced bans on outdoor work during the hottest hours of the day, responding to previous fatalities caused by heat-related illnesses. France’s heat watch warning system, launched after a deadly heatwave in 2003, sets an example for public announcements urging people to stay hydrated during such events. Germany has followed France’s lead and launched a campaign to address heatwave deaths.
Innovative initiatives are emerging to tackle the extreme heat, especially in urban areas where heat island effects are most significant.
Barcelona, Spain, proposes painting rooftops white to reflect the sun’s rays. Meanwhile, London’s historic buildings are showing signs of damage due to prolonged drought and heat, calling for modernisation that considers extreme temperatures.
At the individual level, people are adopting lifestyle changes to minimise heatwave impact, such as staying hydrated, avoiding outdoor activities during peak heat hours, and using energy-efficient appliances.
Communities are embracing tree planting and green space creation to combat the urban heat island effect and provide much-needed shade and cooling. Additionally, the advocacy for clean energy sources and stringent climate policies is gaining momentum to address the long-term effects of heatwaves.
Despite the ongoing threat, the collective efforts of society offer hope for a more resilient and sustainable future. With continued proactive measures and heightened environmental consciousness, individuals and communities strive to adapt and thrive in the face of heatwaves, forging a path towards a cooler, healthier planet.
The Teaching the Future project team believes school education is essential in dealing with these issues. It has published a report that reviewed and analysed education initiatives to improve teaching about climate change and its impacts and will create a training course for teachers to introduce data-driven science into the classroom.