As record-breaking temperatures plague the planet caused by climate change and the El Nino phenomenon, Israel is not exempt from severe weather conditions and June of this year saw unexpected rain, thunderstorms and soring heat coupled with severe dust storms. Temperatures exceeded the monthly recorded heat in the first half of the month followed by lower-than-average cooling in the mountain areas. Average June temperatures have been on the rise over the years and especially since the early 2000s and those measured between January and June 2023 and meteorologists warn this summer may see them exceed 50° C (122° F.)
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Excessive heat can affect the body in various ways, primarily causing dehydration and heatstroke. It can also impact the heart and vascular system, the kidneys and digestive system and even cause brain damage. In a study released last year, the Environmental Protection Ministry found an increase in death during weeks of extreme heat waves.
On average, 45 people died in those periods and according to the ministry, their deaths may have been avoided, had adequate precautions been in place. But not only humans have suffered, and Israel's fauna and flora were also affected.
Extreme heat conditions also impact whether directly or indirectly, basic infrastructure and services, including roads, rail lines, the electric grid water supplies and computers. In addition, the health system may be unable to provide adequate emergency services and care.
To prepare for the anticipate short-term or long-term high temperatures, the government and the national emergency response systems must prepare a long-term plan to ensure that vital services are provided and the impact to people and infrastructure are at a minimum.
Local authorities must map their vulnerable populations and infrastructure and prepare for the risks to their communities.
But the population must also take steps to ensure personal safety and understand that the climate crisis is here and in addition to doing what we can to mitigate the crisis, we must also reduce to a minimum physical exertion and the time spent outdoors during heat waves.
Professor Adi Wolfson is an environmental activist, an expert in the field of sustainability and a professor of chemical engineering at SCE-Sami Shamoon College of Engineering.