Extreme heat is killing more people on our planet than any other climate driven hazard. It is the silent killer.
This was the message at the start of an important session in the Resilience Hub programme titled Mayors for Heat Action. Presented by the Arsht-Rockefeller Foundation Resilience Center, the event featured contributions from four city mayors from Africa, the US and Europe all of whom have developed plans to protect their citizens from the deadly effects of heatwaves.
‘We mayors are early adopters of anti-heat strategies,’ said Daniella Levine Cava, mayor of Miami-Dade County, Florida who has declared a Heat Season to run annually from next year between May 1 and October 31. The city was the first in the world to appoint a heat officer and the primary focus of the heat season will be providing shelters for vulnerable people whose homes become uninhabitable in a heatwave.
Making a help call for funding, Mayor Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr of Freetown, Sierra Leone, first illustrated the scale of the problem facing her city of 1.5 million that was ‘bursting’ from the effects of rural migration spurred by crop failure in rural areas. Many of the newcomers relied on corrugated iron shelters which were impossibly hot in summer.
Freetown to Treetown
The mayor has taken the initiative by appointing Africa’s first heat officer to coordinate the city’s response. She has launched a campaign ‘Freetown to Treetown’ that has already reached the halfway point of its target of a million new trees. Tree cover helps mitigate the effects of heat and trees are a shield against drought, she said. Freetown is also building a cable car system to relieve congestion and ‘take the gas guzzlers off the roads’.
Athens has also appointed a chief heat officer. The most densely populated European city can be ten degrees hotter in the central area than in the suburbs during heatwaves which last year sparked hundreds of fires in Greece.
The mayor, Kostas Bakoyannis said his plan was to reduce emissions by 65 percent by 2030 and said that every decision taken by the city council first considers the climate consequences. ‘We have to start from the bottom up, with small victories at the neighbourhood level,’ he said citing the modest but beneficial effect of fountains and tree shade in public places.
Both Kostas Bakoyannis and Juan Espadas, mayor of Seville, said they were introducing a system of naming and categorising heatwaves, similar to the naming of hurricanes, to rise awareness of the risk to health from extreme heat.
Jupiter, a global leader in climate analytics for resilience and risk management, announced at the Resilience Hub the launch of the Jupiter Promise – a programme to make Jupiter’s services available at little or no cost to underserved countries and communities suffering most from the effects of climate change.
Focusing on countries and communities with per capita income in the bottom quartile of the global population, the Jupiter Promise will help these countries and communities understand and quantify their risks, inform their strategies to adapt to climate change, and protect the most vulnerable. Jupiter plans to reach more than 20 percent of the world’s population, partnering with at least 20 additional NGOs by the end of 2023.
For the inaugural Jupiter Promise programme, Jupiter is partnering with the Adrienne Arsht- Rockefeller Foundation Resilience Center (Arsht-Rock) at the Atlantic Council to deliver critical, granular, and in some cases first-ever, heat risk data to chief heat officers in the city governments of Freetown, Sierra Leone, Athens and Miami. By 2100, with current conditions, 75 percent of the world’s population will be exposed to deadly heat waves. Jupiter Promise data will be used to target life-saving interventions with spatial and socioeconomic aspects that will measurably increase the resilience of vulnerable communities to extreme heat.
Jupiter’s risk intelligence will help cities more strategically allocate resources and services to address increasing needs arising from heat shocks and stress. Concurrent with this initiative, Jupiter also joined the Extreme Heat Resilience Alliance (EHRA) led by Arsht-Rock.
‘We’re launching the Jupiter Promise just as climate resilience becomes a major focus for the international community,’ said Rich Sorkin, chief executive of Jupiter. ‘Extreme heat is more deadly and more pervasive than widely understood, and resilience to extreme heat must be an important adaptation priority.’
Picture by Jeremy Bezanger, Upsplash Photo Community