Spain announces new department to study health effects of very hot weather

MADRID (AP) — Spain experienced its first official heat wave of the year on Monday as the government announced a new department to investigate and mitigate the effects of extreme temperatures on human health.

The state weather agency, AEMET, said temperatures are expected to reach 44 degrees Celsius (111 degrees Fahrenheit) in the south of the country during the heat wave, which is expected to last until Thursday, and noted that the waves heat events became more frequent during the month of June. over the past 12 years.

Ecological Transition Minister Teresa Ribera said the country’s rising temperatures were putting vulnerable populations at risk, and more work was needed to understand how to prepare for longer, hotter summers. “We need to investigate what is happening to our bodies in response to the effects of climate change, in order to mitigate the consequences on our health,” Ribera said.

The proposal to create the new department, called the Health and Climate Change Observatory, will be presented to the Spanish cabinet next month ahead of the July 23 snap general election.

Spain has already banned working outdoors during periods of extreme heat after the death of a municipal worker in Madrid last summer, and has set legal maximum and minimum temperatures for workplaces.

The city of Barcelona also operates a network of more than 200 climate shelters to protect residents from the heat.

Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch has warned that the country is not doing enough to protect people with disabilities from extreme temperatures.

“People with disabilities are at high risk of harm from exposure to extreme heat, including the risk of death and physical, social and mental distress, especially when they have to face dangerous temperatures alone” , said Jonas Bull, assistant. Disability rights researcher within the organization.

Spanish researchers from the Carlos III Health Institute recently published a paper showing that urban environments without tree cover or suitable building materials can experience temperatures up to 11 C (20 F) higher than the nearby countryside. The phenomenon, known as “heat islands”, affects densely populated Spanish cities such as Valencia, Madrid and Barcelona.

Last year was the hottest on record in Spain, and spring 2023 was also declared the hottest on record. The Iberian Peninsula is currently the driest territory in Europe as a prolonged drought stretches into summer, the European Union’s Copernicus emergency management service said on Monday.

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