With Heat Action Day approaching on June 2, a new report from World Weather Attribution, the Red Cross Crescent Climate Centre and Climate Central has found that the planet experienced 26 more days of “excess” extreme heat on average in the past year, which most likely would not have happened without climate change.

Last year was the hottest ever recorded, according to the European Union’s Copernicus climate observation program.

Flooding and hurricanes may capture the headlines, but the impacts of extreme heat are equally deadly. That’s why Heat Action Day matters so much. We need to focus attention on climate change’s silent killer. The IFRC is making heat — and urban action to reduce its impacts — a priority and remains committed to working with communities that are at risk of extreme heat through our global network of National Societies,” said International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies Secretary-General Jagan Chapagaina in a press release from IFRC.

Heat Action Day brings attention to the dangers of extreme heat and steps that can be taken to mitigate it. All over the world, Red Crescent and National Red Cross Societies are sharing strategies on a dedicated website. People are also being encouraged to share artwork and hold events that underscore the dangers extreme heat poses to lives and livelihoods.

The ongoing Asia heat wave has been bringing excessive temperatures to Bangladesh, Malaysia, the Philippines, Myanmar and Nepal, causing many deaths and heat-related health issues.

In Bangladesh, the extreme heat has affected more than 120 million people, and Myanmar experienced its hottest temperature ever recorded of 118.8 degrees Fahrenheit on April 28.

Heat waves most affect those who work outside, as well as vulnerable populations like the old, young and poor.

“This report provides overwhelming scientific evidence that extreme heat is a deadly manifestation of the climate crisis. This wreaks havoc on human health, critical infrastructure, the economy, agriculture and the environment, thereby eroding gains in human development and decreasing wellbeing – especially for poor and marginalized communities in the global South,” said Aditya V. Bahadur, Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre director, in the press release.

Heat is the biggest cause of climate-related deaths, reported AFP.

In the study, the researchers looked at the top 10 percent of temperatures for each country studied during the period 1991 to 2020. They then examined the 12 months from May 15, 2023 to May 15 of this year in order to find out the number of days temperatures were within or above the previous range.

Using peer-reviewed methods, the scientists then looked at how climate change had influenced each of the excessively hot days.

Their conclusion was that, over the past year, “human-caused climate change added an average of 26 days of extreme heat (on average, across all places in the world) than there would have been without a warmed planet,” the report said.

The report also said that, in the 12 months of the study period, approximately 80 percent of the world’s population — about 6.3 billion people — experienced a minimum of 31 days of extreme heat, AFP reported.

Across 90 countries, 76 extreme heat waves occurred, with all continents except Antarctica affected. Five of the most impacted countries were in Latin America.

“That’s a lot of toll that we’ve imposed on people,” said Andrew Pershing, one of the study’s researchers and Climate Central’s vice president for science, as The New York Times reported. “It’s a lot of toll that we’ve imposed on nature.”

The report highlighted that, without climate change’s influence, Ecuador would have recorded roughly 10 days of extreme heat instead of 180; Panama 12 rather than 149; El Salvador 15 not 163; Guyana 33 rather than 174; and Suriname an estimated 24 instead of 182 sweltering days of excessive heat.

“Extreme heat is known to have killed tens of thousands of people over the last 12 months, but the real number is likely in the hundreds of thousands or even millions. Unlike sudden ‘event’ weather disasters, heatwaves kill more slowly and less obviously; they are often exacerbators of pre-existing medical conditions,” IFRC said.

Cristen is a writer of fiction and nonfiction. She holds a JD and an Ocean & Coastal Law Certificate from University of Oregon School of Law and an MA in Creative Writing from Birkbeck, University of London. She is the author of the short story collection The Smallest of Entryways, as well as the travel biography, Ernest’s Way: An International Journey Through Hemingway’s Life.

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