But cities and countries are going to continue to face this sort of problem as climate change increases the frequency and intensity of heat waves, Europe even more so than the rest of the world. Experts in those regions are calling on their governments to prioritize heat resiliency.
Other countries (where the norm is high temperatures similar to those that wreak havoc on European countries and the US) can offer lessons for more heat resilient design. Like in India, where the train system was able to run more or less as normal even as the country suffered through a heatwave (relative even to their usually high summer temperatures) in May. This is because the tracks there are laid with enough space to swell in the heat without breaking.
Some new projects in the EU are being built to withstand hotter temperatures, like the restored Notre-Dame featuring more shade-providing trees and Athens investing in pocket parks and cooling green roofs. Cities like London are releasing building guidelines that include heat resiliency. Overhauling existing infrastructure to meet those same guidelines would, unfortunately, be astronomically expensive and challenging.
And of course, the most important threat from extreme heat is to human health. Over 2,000 people died just in Spain and Portugal during this most recent round of scorching temperatures, and critical community safety groups like firefighters, ambulance workers, and hospital staff face additional challenges in hot weather. Plans to be better prepared for future heatwaves need to focus first on helping the most vulnerable community members stay cool, in addition to making infrastructure more heat-hardy.
So, definitely heed local heat-related travel advisories when planning your own travel this summer. And if you’re in an area with a historically cool climate, consider holding off on any trips that aren’t absolutely necessary until the mercury in thermostats has dropped back down to healthier levels. Collectively, we’re all on notice to start fortifying our infrastructure against extreme heat—heat waves are only going to keep getting hotter and longer, but they don’t have to ground airplanes, disrupt the subway system, endanger lives, or imperil the most famous bike race in the world if we starting prioritizing heat resiliency.