Parisians are most at risk of dying in European heatwaves

Faced with the urgent task of protecting residents from the deadly consequences of sweltering heat, Paris finds itself at the forefront of the fight against soaring temperatures. Its population is at the greatest risk of dying from heat waves compared to other European capitals.

Among European capitals, Paris has long been regarded as the epitome of elegance, culture and romance. But beneath its picturesque facade lurks potential dangers that threaten the bustling population.

Paris is the most heat-prone capital in Europe.According to a recent article published in the journal Nature, the country’s population faces the highest risk of death related to heat waves Lancet Magazine.

Researchers from countries across Europe studied the risk of death from heat and cold in 854 cities between 2000 and 2019. The findings are unmistakable.Paris tops heat-related risks for all age groups, with rising temperatures likely to kill many Increased by 1.6 times than other European cities. Amsterdam and Zagreb are not far behind.

As temperatures rise due to climate change, Paris is set to continue feeling the heat. by 2050the temperature in the city may reach as high as 50°C.

urban heat island effect

Pinpointing the exact reasons why the Parisian population is vulnerable to heat waves is a complex task. “It’s difficult to isolate specific factors,” said study author Dr Pierre Marcelo, a research fellow at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. “The sheer size and density of cities certainly exacerbates the risk,” he said, explaining that with a population of more than 2 million, the effects of heat waves would be magnified.

The socioeconomic status of the urban population is also an important variable to consider. “As a large city, Paris also has more vulnerable residents,” Marcelo said. Low-income communities with limited green space, shade, and air conditioning bear the brunt of extreme heat, exacerbating threats to vulnerable communities. “In addition to that, these communities tend to have higher rates of pre-existing health conditions, and it’s clear why” they’re at greater risk, he said.

The so-called “urban heat island effect” has exacerbated the city’s deadly plight. These hotspots occur when cities are significantly hotter than surrounding rural areas, largely due to the proliferation of buildings and materials that absorb and retain heat. The famous gray roofs of Paris are an example. Although admired by famous painters such as Vincent van Gogh, gray roofs are made of zinc, a heat-absorbing metal. “So is the tarmac, [and] The heat is then released, making it harder for the city to cool down at night,” Maslow said. “The presence of buildings blocks the wind. “

Although the heat island effect can turn Paris into a veritable cauldron, there are still temperature differences between the various neighborhoods. “For example, going from a dense industrial area to a park, you feel a marked drop,” Maslow explained.

Pollution is also a big reason why Paris is vulnerable to heat waves. Air pollution, mainly produced by vehicle emissions, creates “a sort of greenhouse effect”, trapping heat and exacerbating temperature extremes. “The exhaust gas is darker and therefore reduces the city’s albedo (the proportion of incident solar radiation reflected by various surfaces in an urban environment) and thus stores more heat,” the researchers explained.

In fact, historically, heat waves have not been as common in Paris as they have been in other European capitals such as Madrid. “Cities that are used to heat waves have adapted,” Maslow said. “Therefore, at the same temperature, the risk of death in Madrid is slightly lower than in Paris.”

Lessons from a deadly summer

The summer of 2003 wrote a tragic chapter in European history. Unprecedented heatwaves swept across the continent, leaving devastated trails.more than 70,000 people result in death, with more than 15,000 Deaths have been recorded in France alone. Temperatures in Paris climbed above 40°C for several weeks.

The healthcare system is overwhelmed, with hospitals struggling to cope with the influx of heatstroke and dehydration patients. Public authorities were completely unprepared and were later criticized for their reluctance to identify the heat as a leading cause of death. Lucien Abenhaim, French Director-General of Health at the time hand in his resignation Controversy over the “handling of heatwave-related deaths”. A state of emergency was declared, allowing the sick to be sent to military hospitals and creating a crisis morgue to deal with the influx of bodies.

Worst affected are the elderly. half of the dead over the age of 85, and 92% of victims They lived lives in isolation, many without family, friends or social connections to claim their bodies. “It was an eye-opener for a lot of people,” Maslow said. “This is a turning point for the entire continent.” Some climatologists even is called Heat waves are “ground zero for global warming”.

The magnitude of the tragedy sparked a collective awakening, marking a critical moment for the French government to take aggressive steps to protect citizens. Paris has made major strides in tackling the threat of an escalating heat wave and has taken steps to avert another catastrophe.

Since then, the authorities have created a heat wave plan. Information on best practices is scattered throughout the city, with posters detailing what to do in extreme heat. The city has set up a hotline so that authorities can make regular calls to vulnerable people in quarantine and conduct checks to make sure they are in good health. “Cool Island” An Oasis to Relieve the Heat Located among museums, libraries, swimming pools and green spaces.

A climate action plan The organization was founded in 2018 and is led by Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo. Reducing vehicular traffic during heat waves is considered a key strategy. The mayor has promised that by 2030, police will ban the most polluting vehicles from driving in the city during the hottest times.

The plan outlines ways to improve building insulation and ventilation, changing construction guidelines to adapt to the consequences of climate change, including hot summers. It’s also set out to revolutionize Paris’ rooftops, stating that by 2050, all rooftops must “produce at least one” of the following resources: renewable energy from solar panels, food through urban farming or water through rainwater harvesting and storage .

For Masselot, both long-term and short-term solutions were necessary. “in short term, It is important for public health authorities to identify high-risk groups [of dying from a heatwave] That way they can get advance notice of the coming heat and find ways to cool it down,” he said. Maslow explained: “In the long run, cities will need more green space, less asphalt, and more Building changes are needed to reduce heat storage, reduce pollution, and ensure access to populations with higher health risks. ”

To its credit, the city recognizes the vulnerability of its population and is working hard to implement the necessary measures. “Paris is far from the black sheep when it comes to adapting to heat waves,” Marcelo said.

However, the urgency to act cannot be overemphasized. “It’s going to get worse as time goes on and the heat wave is going to be longer,” he said. “Cities need to get ready for this as quickly as possible.”

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