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Heatwaves, drought and wildfires

Climate related extreme weather events such as heatwaves, drought, and wildfires have direct and indirect health effects.
Extreme air temperatures can lead to a range of health effects, which can range from heat exhaustion to heat stroke and it primarily causes death due to cardiovascular compromise. The 2003 heat wave in Western Europe caused 70,000 deaths in excess of what would normally have been expected in August. And this was mainly in the elderly. The elderly are the most vulnerable group. Now that was a temperature of a couple of degrees above average in some of the richest countries in the world with fully functioning national health systems. Heat is a very important determinant of work productivity. In India, for example, we are an agrarian nation and most of our population is working outdoors.
In hot conditions, the only way the body can manage the temperature is by sweating. We have millions of people working outdoors so in the context of climate change these are only going to worsen.
Drought is already fairly common in many developing countries. The main challenges in the context of drought is water scarcity and because of water scarcity families might use sources of water which are not safe and this might increase diarrheal diseases by great number.
Traditionally it rains every April and March in some places. Every August we get rain and every December we get short rains. But now we dont have that formula. We only get showers every two years, - showers, not rain. The lake water, to us means everything. There are no fish nowadays. Let me tell you. The fish need deep water. So thats where we go and get fish. The lake is getting smaller. Its because of the drought like the one you see right now. The animals have died. We cannot grow crops because there is no rain. So we depend only on the lake. It rains somewhere and everyone goes there. Then others dont want people to come to their side.
So they kill each other because of grass and water. My husband was ambushed and shot just like that. His death was a result of the famine and hunger.
The lake was our source of livelihood, and still is. There is no wealth to talk about. Many people have suffered and the drought is killing the only remaining people. The lake is destroyed.
There are no fish it is receding.
First in the case of the lake I blame the Ethiopian government for blocking the Omo river. For the rain I possibly would blame the Western world. Because I think the impact of their factories is what has contributed to climate change. There is an old saying. It will never end like a lake. That is what our people usually say, when they want to say “this thing can not finish”. Its just like lake Turkana. But the way the lake is moving I think that idiom will lose meaning.
Droughts and heat waves increase the risk of wildfires. In many parts of the world, wildfires are burning across huge tracts of land. Wildfire smoke contains about 10,000 chemicals. That smoke can travel over large distances; affect people for many days and many months primarily by irritating air ways.
[FOREST BURNING] -Forget it.
-It’s time to go. -Forget it, Brian. -Aaah! -It’s time to leave. It’s too hot, it’s too smokey. Get out now! - I am not sure where the front is now but we’re trying to make sure that everyone is safe. Over the last couple of weeks, it’s been extremely hot in Sydney for this time of the year and that creates the right ingredients for catastrophic bushfires. New South Wales has suffered the worst bushfire disaster in a decade. House after house burning out of control, house after house destroyed. -My house is fine, it’s my kids are at the school, and we don’t know, no one can seem to tell us where they are.
There’s belief that they’re at the shopping centre, but no one can tell me. There is no roll call, I need to know and no one is giving me answers. Within the emergency services, I think that people are acutely aware that something quite significant is happening. The frequency and the magnitude of the extreme weather events has increased dramatically.
Australia has just come through the hottest 12 month period that it has ever had on record. The most striking feature of that was the “angry summer”, the three month period from December 2012 through February 2013. It was remarkable for the number of extreme weather related records that were set. You only need to talk to firefighters and they’ll all tell you that things are very different for them than they were 10 years ago. We are warming the climate, heating the atmosphere, heating the ocean.
Read this text before watching the video above.

Climate related extreme weather events such as heatwaves, drought, and wildfires have direct and indirect health effects.

Working in extreme heat can make us ill, or greatly reduce our productivity. In some parts of the world, temperatures already exceed the international standard for safe work activity. In Australia, one study estimated that the number of “dangerously hot” days, when core body temperatures may increase by ≥ 2oC and outdoor activity is hazardous, is projected to rise from the current 4-6 days per year to 33-45 days per year by 2070 (IPCC Chapter 11).

Heat is particularly dangerous for urban populations of the elderly, infants, people with chronic diseases, and expectant mothers. Extreme heat can hinder organizations’ ability to provide health, emergency, and social services for vulnerable groups, so the involvement of the health sector in climate adaptation essential.

In most countries, the increase in heat deaths is expected to greatly outweigh any reduction in cold deaths associated with warming.

Watch the video above to learn about drought in Kenya and wildfires in Australia then watch this BBC news clip to understand the health effects of heatwaves in France in 2003.

This is an additional video, hosted on YouTube.

Now move on to the discussion.


D. McCoy and N.Watts. 2015. Climate Change: Health Impacts and Opportunities a Summary and Discussion of the IPCC Working Group 2 Report.

IPCC, 2014: Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability. Part A: Global and Sectoral Aspects. Contribution of Working Group II to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Field, C.B., V.R. Barros, D.J. Dokken, K.J. Mach, M.D. Mastrandrea, T.E. Bilir, M. Chatterjee, K.L. Ebi, Y.O. Estrada, R.C. Genova, B. Girma, E.S. Kissel, A.N. Levy, S. MacCracken, P.R. Mastrandrea, and L.L.White (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA, 1132 pp.

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