Fierce heat

Published June 24, 2024

CLIMATE change is unfolding as predicted by experts: savage heat, melting glaciers, extreme rainfall, drought, forest fires and floods are playing out in quick succession. In the month of June, in the northern hemisphere, cities on four continents are baking in menacing temperatures — a warning that record-breaking hot spells “could surpass last summer as the warmest in 2,000 years”. The record heat has taken possibly thousands of lives in Europe and Asia; according to reports, 200 homeless people have perished in Delhi, and out of the over 1,000 pilgrims who died of heat during Haj, several were Pakistanis. These tragedies highlight the detrimental costs of global warming. It is time for urgent measures and to recognise that consumption-oriented human habits have spawned a monster that is now stalking the globe.

Extreme weather exposes vulnerable groups — women, children, the elderly, poor and rural people — to dire health hazards, from cardiovascular and respiratory disorders to miscarriages and fatal heat strokes. Hence, federal and provincial authorities in Pakistan need to set up cooling zones across the country with ample water and electricity at all times. Moreover, protecting and increasing green cover, which facilitates sustainable development, lowers temperatures and lessens the urban heat island effect, is critical. Furthermore, in conjunction with heat awareness campaigns, the government, NGOs, and well-heeled communities should join hands to make food supplies, potable water and shelter facilities available to the outdoor labour force. In order to cope, citizens should be able to spot signs of heat-induced ailments. For any meaningful relief from climate consequences, our vision and actions have to match global methods, including mindful urban planning, using renewable energy and cooling techniques, such as insulation, reflective paints and non-heat trapping building materials. Heatwaves are becoming more frequent; only timely precautions and public knowledge can counter their impact.

Published in Dawn, June 24th, 2024

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