**Iran Declares Public Holiday Amid Life-Threatening Heat**
Iran has declared a two-day public holiday due to the extreme heatwave that is sweeping across the country. This move is reminiscent of the restrictions imposed during the Covid-19 pandemic, highlighting the severe public health risks posed by climate change. The decision to close offices, banks, and the stock exchange is believed to be the first nationwide shutdown in response to extreme heat. As temperatures are expected to reach 50C (122F), the government has advised people to stay indoors during the day. Although some air-conditioned areas, such as shopping centers, remain operational, the measure emphasizes the growing urgency and need to address the impacts of climate change on human life and the global economy.
**Increasing Frequency of Heatwaves Disrupts Daily Life**
The closure of schools in India, Mexico, and the Philippines, as well as Greece’s temporary shutdown of the Acropolis and work restrictions due to wildfires, exemplify the localized disruptions caused by heatwaves. In the United States, the city of Phoenix closed hiking trails due to scorching temperatures. These incidents, coupled with the hottest June and July on record, indicate the need for more comprehensive measures to protect vulnerable populations from the consequences of extreme heat. As temperatures continue to rise year after year, additional restrictions, such as furloughs for farmworkers and midday siestas for workers, are being considered in countries like Italy and Germany.
**Wide-scale Impact of Climate Change-Attributed Heat**
A report published by Climate Central reveals that over 6.5 billion people, or 81% of the global population, were exposed to heat attributed to climate change in July alone. The study by the International Labour Organization predicts that the accumulated financial loss due to heat stress worldwide will reach $2.4 trillion by the end of the decade. Furthermore, there will be a more than 2% decrease in the number of working hours annually. With global temperatures already 1.2C higher than pre-industrial levels, it comes as no surprise that 22 out of the last 23 years have experienced record-breaking heat. Climate models project even more extreme temperatures in the future unless immediate action is taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and strengthen public health infrastructure.
**Factors Aggravating the Intensity of Heatwaves**
The severity of this year’s heatwaves can be attributed to several factors. The jet stream, strong and narrow bands of westerly winds, has trapped high-pressure domes in western North America, the Mediterranean, and southern Asia, amplifying the impact of heat in these areas. Additionally, record-breaking ocean temperatures have further disrupted weather patterns and increased humidity levels in many land areas.
**Health Implications and Challenges**
Heat-related deaths are challenging to measure accurately, as they can sometimes be attributed to other underlying causes. However, records from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate that over 400 workers have died from heat exposure since 2011, with thousands more hospitalized annually. Europe witnessed over 60,000 excess deaths due to heat stress during the summer of 2022. India reported nearly 100 heat-related deaths in June, while Japan and South Korea experienced sweltering temperatures resulting in 15 deaths over a weekend. Even small deviations from seasonal average temperatures, as highlighted by the World Health Organization, are linked to increased illness and mortality. Heat-related illnesses encompass cramps, heat exhaustion, breathing difficulties, heatstroke, hyperthermia, and an increased risk of injuries. Patients can deteriorate rapidly unless treated promptly. Humidity exacerbates the effects, making sweat less efficient in cooling the body down. This additional strain on the body can lead to an increase in cardiovascular incidents.
**Urgent Action and Preparedness**
Governments worldwide need to implement contingency plans to handle the growing frequency and intensity of heatwaves. This includes developing health warning systems, increasing hospital capacity, and establishing regulations to prevent workers from being compelled to work outside when temperatures surpass a certain threshold. While regions such as Spain, Italy, and Greece are currently at the forefront of this issue, extreme temperatures are becoming increasingly common in other parts of the world. Last year, the UK also experienced record-breaking heat. It is imperative for countries to prioritize measures to address heatwaves and their widespread implications.
In conclusion, Iran’s recent declaration of a public holiday highlights the urgent need to address the escalating risks posed by climate change on human life and the global economy. The increasing frequency and intensity of heatwaves globally necessitate proactive measures to protect vulnerable populations and mitigate the impact on public health and the economy. Failure to take immediate action will result in more lives lost and livelihoods affected. It is crucial for governments and communities worldwide to prioritize adaptation and resilience efforts to combat the impacts of extreme heat caused by climate change.