Cool Roofs Save Lives During Global Killer Heat Waves

NOAA has been tracking rising temperatures around the world and it seems each month we see new reports of record setting heat. According to NOAA records, May was the hottest year on record, and it looks like 2015 is on track to beat last year for overall temperatures. Extreme heat events are happening all over the world and this heat is killing thousands. Take a look at a weather map of this global heat wave…

[image of Summer 2015 heatwave India]

In Australia, a heat-wave killed 374 people earlier this year. Doctors see this a public health emergency, and are calling for climate action to head off this silent killer.

In India, the heat was so bad the roads were literally melting, with temperatures reaching 118 Fahrenheit in some areas. India’s Earth Sciences Minister – Harsh Vardhan – has blamed climate change for a heatwave that killed 2,500 people in late May and early June.

“Let us not fool ourselves that there is no connection between the unusual number of deaths from the ongoing heat wave… It’s not just an unusually hot summer, it is climate change”

[image of Heatwave India 2015]

In Pakistan, over 65,000 people have suffered heat stroke in a recent heatwave – which has killed over 1,200 people. Peak temperatures have reached 48 degrees Celsius / 118 degrees Fahrenheit.

People are starting to understand how low-cost solutions like cool surfaces are saving lives. Especially in the developing world. The life-saving benefits of cool and white roofs are discussed in this Mashable article about the heat waves in Pakistan and India…

“You don’t necessarily need a complicated solution,” Jaiswal said. She pointed to Sherdaben General Hospital in Ahmedabad, a hospital which serves a slum community, as an example where a low-tech, low-cost solution saved many lives.

The hospital had a black tar roof, which increased the building’s temperatures. Further, the neonatal ward was on the highest floor, meaning that many mothers and their newborns were put at greater risk of heat-related illnesses.

The solution? The hospital installed a white roof, which lowered the internal temperature of the building significantly, and the staff also moved the neonatal ward to a lower floor.”

Heatwaves are also hitting the Southeast United States, Alaska, Israel and Japan igniting wildfires and sending hundreds to the hospital, according to this article in EcoWatch. Temperatures average 5 – 15 degrees higher than normal with some areas hitting 115 degrees Fahrenheit. Extreme heat and record-setting temperatures as high as 120 degrees Fahrenheit triggered wildfires in the Northwest United States.

Meanwhile, a potentially record-setting heatwave is projected for Spain, the United Kingdom, France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany at the end of June.

These extreme heat events will only become more frequent and more deadly. According to a new report by the British medical journal, The Lancet, more people will be exposed to heat waves and other extreme weather linked to climate change over the next century. From The New York Times

“By the end of the century, the report estimates, the exposure to heat waves each year for older people around the world is expected to be around 3 billion more cases than in 1990.”

Extreme heat is the silent killer – the most deadly of natural disasters, and GCCA has collected data and produced reports detailing how cool surfaces can save lives as our planet warms. For additional information, please read our reports:

Assessing the Health Impacts of Urban Heat Island Strategies in the District of Columbia
Health Impacts of Urban Cooling Strategies in Baltimore, Los Angeles and New York City