Temperatures of 40 degrees Celsius in
Hamburg and London – what used to be unthinkable is almost part of normality
after the sweltering summers of 2019, 2020 and also this year. Scientists state
that heat waves in the UK are ten times more likely due to climate change. The
Centre for Medical-Meteorological Research of the German Weather Service in
Freiburg confirms: heat waves will occur more frequently and with greater
Extreme temperatures are not healthy
The influence of weather on health is manifold:
Changing pollen seasons, high UV radiation and ozone levels, thermal stress.
Heat stress and dehydration also exacerbate existing diseases such as
respiratory, cardiovascular, and Alzheimer's disease. Increasingly, national
statistical offices are also reporting an increase in the number of deaths. The World
Health Organisation projects that climate change will cause about 250,000
additional deaths per year between 2030 and 2050.
Heat mortality statistics are the exception
It was particularly hot in Europe two weeks
of July this year. The excess mortality adjusted for COVID-19 cases found by
many statistical offices in Europe during this period is of concern. In
Portugal, more than 1,000 people died from heat between July 7 and 18. Spain
reported 1,682 deaths for the period between July 11 and 24. Both countries
keep official statistics on heat-related deaths. However, most European
countries do not have such specific coverage.
Excess mortality is a strong indication
In this respect, data on excess mortality
are generally subject to uncertainty. In Germany, the number is particularly
high: In the week starting July 18 alone, adjusted excess mortality was more than
3,000 deaths compared with the average for the past five years. Even though
heat is not recorded as a factor in a person's death; a link between extremely
high temperatures and increased deaths is very likely. This is also confirmed
by the current study
"Heat-related mortality in Germany between 1992 and 2021".
Heat requires workplace reforms
The health threats posed by climate change
have become tangible. Politicians are called upon to act. This is also
economically imperative. Back in 2018, the International
Labour Organization calculated that the number of hours lost to work due to
heat stress will increase by two per cent as early as 2030 assuming a rise in
global temperatures by 1.5 degrees Celsius by the end of the century. This
corresponds to a loss of 72 million full-time positions. Unions are pushing for
workplace reforms such as new maximum temperatures. But it also needs
government policies focused on the causes of climate change.