New UN Guidelines on Heatwaves Have Been Issued

Created on Monday, 20 July 2015

The World Health Organisation (WHO) and the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), both sub-bodies of the UN, have issued a new set of guidelines that warn about the growing intensity of heatwaves in the future due to the acceleration of climate change. Europe already suffered from an unexpected heatwave in 2003 and this year multiple European countries have already issued weather warnings due to rising temperatures.

 The UN guidelines, entitled “Heatwaves and Health: Guidance on Warning-System Development”, aim to turn the attention of decision-makers, health services, and the general public, to the health risks posed by heatwaves. The UN notes that it is common to have special weather forecasts warnings about high temperatures, but they usually do not address the health risks that heatwaves pose.

The main recommendation stemming from the guidelines is for countries to create alert systems to counter the health risks of heatwaves. Many countries, most notably France, already have some plans in place, but others should follow suit. The guidelines have been published in the aftermath of the WMO revelation that 14 of the 15 hottest years recorded have all occurred in the 21st century.

Heatwaves this year have already reached many countries in Western Europe, including Belgium, France, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, and the UK. These countries have all issued weather warnings aimed at young children, older people, and those with serious illnesses, which could be further aggravated due to unusually high temperatures.

The UN Guidelines are available here.