During this year, countries in Europe, Asia and the UK have been experienced very high temperatures. Recently, several parts of South Africa have also experienced a heat wave. It is very disturbing that across the globe countries are experiencing more hot days and less cold days. Intense heat waves are becoming a common phenomenon. The change in weather patterns can be observed by the increase in the number of hot days getting hotter. Throughout the United States, during the last decade daily record high temperatures have occurred twice as often as record lows (Source: Center for Climate and Energy Solutions). The world’s population and carbon emissions are major contributors to climate change.
Why must we be concerned?
Extreme heat waves have a knock-on effect on other environmental elements. Droughts and huge wildfires are created by high temperature. On 13 July 2022, the temperature in Leiria, Portugal reached 45 degrees Celsius where 3000 hectares of land had burnt. The country was placed on red alert and firefighters were battling to control active fires countrywide.
Sea-levels will rise caused by the melting snow which will flood coastal areas and islands. Residents on islands will have limited higher ground to resettle on or seek residence in other countries. Water resources will take strain as the demand increases in the agriculture sector, energy, and human consumption.
In urban areas, the infrastructure absorbs heat which results in cities being hotter than rural areas. China experienced three heat waves this year. In July 2022, under extreme heat conditions in some urban areas the roads buckled, and the tar melted.
Extreme hot conditions without the necessary precautions can cause death. During 1999 to 2009 hot conditions killed an average of more than 600 people per year in the United States.
The human body is unable to cool down when there is hot weather coupled with high humidity rates which can cause heat stroke. Older adults, children and people with chronic health issues and outdoor workers are prone to heat stress. In the USA heat-related illnesses have killed more people than any other weather-related hazard. During a heat wave in 2010, 56 000 Russians died.
In a report done by Climate Impact Lab, predicts that the global annual mortality rate due to heat waves will increase. By 2100 with an expected global population of 11 billion, 8 million people will die from heat related deaths.
High temperature has an impact on the growth patterns of crops, as some crops require cooler nights to grow. The global grain market is under severe pressure due to the disruptive supply from Ukraine. Grain farmers in Europe are seen as an alternative to supplement the demand, however the hot conditions in Europe have negatively influenced the crop yields. Animals also experience heat stress when unable to cool down due to continue high temperatures. Droughts and wildfires caused by heat waves have a major impact on the harvest level of crop farming and shortages of feed for livestock occurs.
Since pre-industrial time, the average temperature of the planet has risen by 1,1 C. The main contributor to global warming is the emission of greenhouse gasses. Gasses like CO2, and methane traps the sun’s heat causing increase in temperatures. As a result, heat waves are caused by man-made climate changes.
During hot times, more electricity is used in cooling systems which creates more emissions into the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels. The earth’s natural carbon balance where CO2 released from dead plants into the atmosphere are again reabsorbed by new plants. However, the extra CO2 emissions created by burning fossil fuel cannot be fully absorbed and excess remains in the atmosphere. This disruption contributes to global warming.
According to safety policies, when dangerous working conditions due to high temperature are created workers are not allowed to work, productivity and factory outputs decrease. For safety reasons during hot weather, major outdoor events and concerts are cancelled which result in a loss of income.
In summary, the frequent occurrence of heat waves globally is a stark message to us that the planet is burning. It is predicted that should the world population and carbon emissions increase at the current rate, at least one third of the global population will live under extreme heat conditions within 50 years.
Scientists emphasize that we have run out of time not to react and need to change our habits to secure a sustainable life for future generations. Policy makers, governments, business leaders and individuals must make collective decisions to reduce carbon footprint as much as possible. The drive to change old methods to more environmentally safe and sustainable methods is also coming from the consumer.
They demand responsibility from companies and are prepared to pay more to purchase environmentally-friendly products. Therefore, companies need to reduce their carbon requirements to maintain a competitive edge over others. We, as a disposable food packaging company manage our waste, reduce water and electricity consumption on our premises.
We are members of the PRO’s (Producer Responsibility Organization) and pay the mandatory EPR (Extended Producer Responsibility) fees which go towards improving the recycling of packaging material in South Africa. In a bid to reduce packaging pollutions, we also offer our clients a wide range of enviro-friendly food and beverage packaging. See our website for more information on our range of products.