IFRC science partners: European heatwave exacerbated by climate change

Published: 3 July 2015

Geneva, 3 July 2015 –It is “virtually certain” that climate change increased the likelihood of the heatwave that is currently baking countries across Europe, according to a team of international scientists that includes the IFRC’s specialist reference centre on climate change.

This is the first time such information – based on an analysis of observations and models – has been made available during a weather-related emergency like this current heatwave.

A more detailed quantitative analysis of the role of climate change in the current heatwave, including data for several specific cities, is being made available at www.climatecentral.org/europe-2015-heatwave-climate-change.

The ground breaking World Weather Attribution programme includes leading scientists from Oxford University, the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute, the University of Melbourne, and the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre. It is convened by the US-based Climate Central science journalism organization.

The analysis of the European heatwave also involved the meteorological agencies of France and Switzerland and the French National Centre for Scientific Research.

National Red Cross Societies in Europe this week quickly flagged public-health guidance on heatwave precautions, aimed at especially vulnerable groups like children and the elderly.

A French Red Cross warning posted on its homepage says the heatwave has “spread to the whole country and Météo France has announced several temperature records.

“Our teams are on the alert throughout the country to provide help and support to vulnerable people, especially seniors.”

In the Netherlands, the Red Cross quotes the country’s Central Bureau of Statistics as saying that during a heatwave more than 200 people will die in a week – pushing up average mortality by 10 per cent. The Netherlands Red Cross adds that “the effects of heat can be prevented through simple actions such as staying in the cool, drinking extra water and avoiding strenuous physical effort.”

The Red Cross societies in Spain, Belgium, the UK and Germany are also issuing health advisories and responding to needs caused by the heat wave.

The IFRC has reiterated its deep concern about rising global risks of weather-extremes due to climate change.

At last year’s UN climate summit in New York, IFRC Secretary General Elhadj As Sy welcomed a new international commitment for climate information to become a “public good” – including better data on climate as well as vulnerability, exposure, and population.

By the end of 2015, he said, the IFRC was committing to “systematically communicating to the general public about the role of climate change in major disasters.”

Climate Centre Director Maarten van Aalst said: “We are often caught unawares by these rapid changes in risk and need to do more to cope with the ‘new normals’.

“But fortunately all that’s required is often just simple actions like handing out water and looking after your elderly neighbours to make sure they are OK. Red Cross volunteers are promoting these actions all across Europe.”

For further information, please contact:

In The Hague:

  • Dr Maarten van Aalst, Director, Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre

Mobile : +31 6 150 86 199, E-mail: vanaalst@climatecentre.org

In Budapest:

  • Andreea Anca, Communications officer, IFRC Europe

Mobile : +36 709 53 77 09, E-mail: andreea.anca@ifrc.org

In Geneva:

  • Benoit Carpentier, Team leader, public communications, IFRC

Mobile : +41 792 132 413, E-mail: benoit.carpentier@ifrc.org

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is the worlds largest volunteer-based humanitarian network, reaching 150 million people each year through its 189 member National Societies. Together, IFRC acts before, during and after disasters and health emergencies to meet the needs and improve the lives of vulnerable people. It does so with impartiality as to nationality, race, gender, religious beliefs, class and political opinions. For more information, please visit www.ifrc.org. You can also connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr.