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The Urgent Need for Climate Scenario Risk Analysis in the Face of Global Warming -

Updated: Oct 19, 2023

Induced High Temperature Extremes

Written by Charles Galdies and Gabriella Borda.

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has just reported that the first week of July was the hottest on record globally. Temperature records on land and in oceans are being broken, posing potentially devastating impacts on ecosystems. Currently, Europe is experiencing its hottest week since 1940 and so it is crucial that we acknowledge and prepare for what the WMO is declaring as an escalating threat of intense heatwaves. Meanwhile, a world leading climatologist believes that the target to limit global warming to 1.5oC will be missed, which according to the UN will expose millions more people to potentially devastating climate events. To ensure our safety and wellbeing, it is imperative that we take proactive measures to face this challenge head-on and be ready for more intense heatwaves in the future.

Global warming, fueled by human activities such as burning of fossil fuels and intensive agriculture, and deforestation, has led to a steady rise in greenhouse gas emissions. As a result, our planet's climate system is undergoing significant changes that are altering weather patterns across the globe.

A highly concerning impact of climate change is the onset of extreme heatwaves, which are becoming more frequent and intense, posing serious threats to human health, infrastructure, agriculture, and ecosystems. The northern hemisphere, home to densely populated regions and major urban centers, has experienced some of the most severe consequences of climate change.

Understanding the link between global warming and extreme heatwaves is crucial for developing effective strategies to mitigate their impacts. By examining scientific data and conducting comprehensive research, we can gain valuable insights into how climate change influences these events.

The Devastating Effects of Heatwaves on Health and Public Safety

Heatwaves pose a significant threat to both public health and safety. The health impacts of heatwaves are far-reaching, with increased risks of heat exhaustion, heatstroke, and dehydration. Vulnerable populations such as the elderly, children, and those with chronic illnesses are particularly at risk.

Not only do heatwaves jeopardize individual well-being, but they also pose substantial public safety risks. In Malta, the soaring temperatures are leading to power outages, causing disruptions in essential services like air conditioning and refrigeration systems. This can have severe consequences for nursing and elderly homes, summer schools, industrial complexes and other critical infrastructure.

Moreover, the combination of high temperatures and dry conditions are also leading to increased wildfires during heatwaves. These fires not only threaten lives but also destroy homes and ecosystems, leading to irreversible land degradation. At the time of writing, the situation in the western part of France is dire as wildfires continue to ravage the area, forcing thousands of residents to evacuate their homes. Similarly, in Spain, a staggering number of 20 fires are currently burning out of control, posing a significant threat to both lives and property. Greece and Portugal have also suffered from devastating fires in recent days, resulting in the destruction of thousands of hectares of land. Today we learn that on the island of Rhodes, thousands of tourists are being evacuated from their holiday resorts because of life-threatening wildfires. Is this the beginning of the end of Mediterranean tourism as we know it?

We cannot afford to underestimate the devastating effects that heatwaves can have on our communities. This is why it is crucial that authorities take immediate action to mitigate the impact of heatwaves on health and public safety. This includes implementing effective heatwave response plans, improving access to cooling centers for vulnerable populations, raising awareness about the dangers of extreme heat events, and investing in resilient infrastructure to withstand these challenges.

The Ripple Effects on our Economic Sectors

The scorching heatwaves we are experiencing have far-reaching consequences on various economic activities, affecting various sectors and industries. Heatwaves can disrupt normal operations due to their impact on labour productivity. High temperatures can create challenging working conditions, especially in outdoor and poorly ventilated workplaces. As a result, employees may need more frequent breaks or reduced working hours to cope with the extreme heat. Heat can also affect efficiency as employees may find it harder to concentrate, leading to errors, slower task completion and increased project costs.

Heatwaves can also have various effects on materials, ranging from structural damage to changes in physical and chemical properties. Apart from this, these events often lead to a significant increase in the demand for electricity which may strain power grids and may lead to supply challenges, especially if the electricity infrastructure is not adequately prepared to handle high consumption peaks. As a result, there could be an increased risk of power outages and grid instability during extreme heat events. Power outages can lead to significant losses for businesses, as the latter may experience adverse effects, including but not limited to loss of revenues, spoilage of perishable goods, damage to equipment, data loss, insurance claims and supply chain disruptions.

The ripple effects on supply chains can be devastating, disrupting the flow of goods and services from suppliers to end consumers. Manufacturing plants heavily reliant on electricity may be unable to operate, causing bottlenecks in the production of goods. Power outages can also impact temperature-controlled storage facilities, such as refrigerated warehouses, leading to spoilage of perishable goods and increased inventory losses. With regard to transportation, electrically powered systems, such as trains may experience interruptions, leading to delays in moving goods and materials through the supply chain and consequently resulting in higher logistics costs, as business may have to resort to alternative transportation methods or expedited shipping services to overcome transportation delays. Supplier disruptions can also lead to a domino effect on downstream operations, as critical component providers in one region impact stakeholders across the entire supply chain, regardless of their location.

The Importance of Scenario Climate Risk Analysis

Climate scenario risk analysis emerges as a vital tool in addressing the repercussions of extreme high temperatures on businesses. A reactive approach is no longer sufficient; instead, proactive planning and comprehensive risk assessment strategies have become imperative to effectively mitigate these impacts.

Climate scenario risk analysis enables us to anticipate and evaluate potential future scenarios by integrating climate data and projections with infrastructure sensitivity, exposure and vulnerability. By comprehensively understanding the risks linked to high-temperature extremes, effective strategies can be designed to mitigate any negative impact. This analysis enables us to test our economic and business models and investment decisions under different scenarios. By understanding the potential financial and operational consequences of climate change, we can make more informed decisions and pro-actively address climate-related risks.

Through conducting scenario risk analysis, experts can identify the areas that are most susceptible to extreme heat and allocate resources strategically, empowering organizations to implement targeted interventions within institutional risk assessment and adaptation. The time for action is now and we must act swiftly and decisively to confront the escalating threats of heatwaves. Let us make climate scenario risk analysis a top priority in our fight against this pressing issue. Together, we can forge a more resilient future for ourselves and for generations to come.

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