122nd Ristina Linares (Madrid, 44 years old) is the co-director of the Climate Change, Health and Urban Environment Unit of the Carlos III Health Institute. She and she have spent years studying the health effects of extreme weather events, such as the early heat wave that is being experienced these days in mainland Spain and the Balearic Islands. Linares recalls that the deadly wave of 2003 in Europe.
Which caused 35,000 deaths (6,500 of them in Spain) was a turning point. An alert system was launched for the vulnerable population that has helped reduce mortality in this type of phenomenon. But this doctor in Preventive Medicine and Public Health maintains that much more work still needs to be done on adaptation to face extreme events that climate change is making more frequent and harsher.
Response. Yes. The frequency and intensity of heat waves in the last 20 years is much more relevant than it has been until now; waves and so-called extreme weather events in general for 122nd Ristina Linares. I have no doubt that this is due to the effect of climate change, although it seems that some sectors still doubt that isolated phenomena are due to climate change. But we are seeing that in the last decade, these extreme events, especially heat waves, but not only, are becoming more frequent and more intense.
It has not been linked to an increase in heat deaths thanks to the implementation of public health prevention plans. There are more extreme heat events, but heat mortality is not increasing at the moment. As of 2004, prevention plans were put in place for phenomena of this nature.
And in those prevention plans alert mechanisms were established in the autonomous communities. When certain levels of risk are exceeded, actions are launched to alert the different health systems and also the vulnerable population, which are traditionally the elderly and people with pathologies who take some drugs or with kidney pathologies, for example . These groups of special vulnerability are alerted so that they are not exposed to high temperatures.
I think that from the point of knowledge, yes. Another thing is from the point of adaptation. Everyone knows that you have to protect yourself against the heat, and especially vulnerable groups. One way or another, people know that heat leads to illness and can lead to hospital admission and even death. But from the point of adaptation we still have a long way to go. Considering that these phenomena are going to be more and more frequent and that they are going to occur not only in the summer months, such as July and August.
I consider that we are not prepared, especially in urban areas, which are the most vulnerable. A great deal of work would have to be done, for example to create climate shelters for vulnerable groups and in the naturalization of cities, to create green and blue zones to gradually adapt urban areas to excess temperatures… It is not enough just to alert the population and inform, but we must work on how to deal with these phenomena, because the temperature will continue to rise. The more we do to adapt our homes and our way of life to the climate, the easier and more bearable it will be to beat the heat.
They are areas where people from vulnerable groups whose homes are not well thermally insulated can spend a few hours a day to take refuge from this heat. A climate shelter can be a library or a shopping mall or even refrigerated transportation. There are endless possibilities that can be publicized and sponsored as climate shelters.
Yes, it was a turning point. There have been other heat waves before and after, like the one in 2005, but 2003 marked a turning point in how we deal with them and served to set those epidemiological thresholds in each area. We have been working for a long time and defending that meteorological thresholds are not the same as epidemiological thresholds. It is say