Fan’s death due to heat at Taylor Swift concert highlights dangers of climate change: NPR
Spring is just beginning in the Southern Hemisphere, but in most parts of South America summer seems to have peaked months ago. A series of heat waves have settled in the region, pushing temperatures to record levels month after month.
Temperatures rose last week in southern Brazil. In Rio de Janeiro, a city of about 12 million people, extreme heat and humidity caused a 23-year-old Brazilian college student to go into cardiac arrest during a Taylor Swift concert. Fans stood in line for the Eras Tour at Nilton Santos Olympic Stadium in extremely hot, humid and windy conditions for hours before Friday night’s show. Concertgoers reported that it was hot and steamy inside the venue.
The dead woman, Ana Clara Benevides Machado, received medical attention from paramedics at the concert venue, but later died at a nearby hospital.
Temperatures in Rio last week exceeded 100 degrees Fahrenheit. But the heat index — a measure that takes into account air temperature and humidity — made it I feel like it was about 140 degrees Fahrenheit. People can only handle such heat for a few hours before they start getting sick – or even die.
The Brazilian Ministry of Culture referred to the extreme and dangerous temperatures in a statement expressing its condolences over Machado’s death. The ministry said this is a clear signal that climate change should be considered a major risk to events such as large concerts or other cultural events at the present time. Swift postponed a concert planned for Saturday night, another day that was supposed to be dangerously hot.
Heat break recording
The heatwave was the eighth largest Brazil has experienced this year, says Lincoln Alves, a climate scientist at Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research. Alves says climate change has almost certainly worsened. He and his colleagues analyzed a similar heat wave in September, which was at least 100 times more likely to be caused by climate change.
Raul Cordero, a climate scientist at the University of Santiago in Chile, says the past six months have consecutively broken regional temperature records. “October was the warmest October on record. September was the warmest September on record. And so on, since last May.” He stops, and repeats. “Six months we have had (record heat) in a row!”
It’s extremely hot across South America, in part because the region is in the throes of El Niño, which pushes temperatures up a few degrees both regionally and globally. But this rise in temperatures comes on top of long-term climate warming, which is due primarily to the burning of fossil fuels.
“What is happening is not a coincidence, not only in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo in southern Brazil, but also in Bolivia, Paraguay and Gran Chaco. And everywhere. And a little further north in Brazil, there are not only high temperatures but “Very severe drought.” “It is a big problem that affects not only southern Brazil, but the entire Indian subcontinent.”
Average temperatures in São Paulo have risen more than 3 degrees Fahrenheit since the 1960s.
A few extra degrees of warming may not seem like much, but the increase is in number, Alves says Maximum Heat days have increased dramatically. In the 1960s, there were about seven days of extreme heat in the region — about one major heat wave per year. Now, there are more than 50 days of extremely hot weather annually, or about 9 major heat events. This number is expected to rise further in the future.
How to kill heat
Air temperatures in Rio de Janeiro were sweltering last week as concertgoers waited to arrive at Nilton Santos Stadium for the Swift Eras tour on Friday night. People waited for hours in the sun to reach the place, and many of them did not have water to drink.
High humidity was another problem. People cool down by sweating: When water evaporates, it draws out heat that has built up in the body. But when the air is very humid — in other words, when it holds almost all the water vapor it can hold — that sweat doesn’t evaporate. It remains embroidered on the skin, useless.
“When we think about the real big risks to the human body, humid heat stress is one of the biggest risks,” says Daniel Vecellio, a climate scientist and heat expert at George Mason University. “When it gets really humid, we can sweat as much as we want, but if that sweat doesn’t evaporate, it turns off our main physiological mechanism so we can cool ourselves down.”
The air in Rio last week was still and stagnant, making it nearly impossible for sweat to evaporate. The air was heavy with humidity.
The body can also cool down by directing blood toward small vessels near the skin, where it can come into contact with cold air. This puts stress on the heart, which needs to pump harder to move the blood. That’s why heart problems, like the one that killed Machado, spike during heatwaves, Felicio says.
It’s not as if people in Brazil aren’t used to the heat, Alves says. “But in these times, in September and October, and right now, the temperature puts a very big stress. And even those people who are, I would say, more familiar with this type of climate, are facing stress because of these extreme events.”
Make heat less dangerous
Overall, extreme heat like the one we saw last week in Rio will always be dangerous, says Marisol Iglesias Gonzalez, a climate expert at the US Latino Center of Excellence at Cambio Climático y Salud in Costa Rica. But warning people in advance about extreme heat, for example, can help reduce risks. Designing emergency heat plans in places like Nilton Santos Stadium and other public spaces is another way to reduce risks from high temperatures.
Some efforts to reduce heat risks can come from governments. Cities, where huge amounts of concrete absorb heat and push temperatures up, can develop green spaces or cooling centers. National weather systems can send out early warnings to help people plan for the worst of times, though it’s important to design effective warnings that reach everyone they need, Iglesias-Gonzalez stresses. The Brazilian Meteorological Agency sent heat warnings last week.
Efforts must be made in the private sector as well. In its statement, the Brazilian Ministry of Culture stressed that the new risks of climate change require coordinated efforts on the part of the event hosts. Iglesias Gonzalez says emergency heat protocols are crucial. For example, Nilton Santos Stadium banned concertgoers from bringing water bottles inside. This led to a drought for many fans. Brazil’s justice minister said on Twitter previously that water bottles would be allowed into venues in the future.
“They’re not letting people bring their own water bottles in? We’re not in the 1970s, we don’t have 1970s weather! We’re facing an existential crisis with climate change,” Iglesias says. -Gonzalez.
“If we want to organize this type of event, we have to acknowledge that climate change is a risk. And be prepared for it, to protect the people we bring to see this type of show.”
this means everyoneFrom private companies and city governments to nonprofits, they need climate plans, she says.
Due to the ongoing heat, Swift postponed her show, which was scheduled for Saturday. Billboard, which began tracking concerts affected by climate-influenced extreme weather, counted 30 shows that have been postponed or canceled so far in 2023 due to heat, flooding and other weather issues.
Adapting to existing heat problems, which will continue to worsen as climate change advances, is half the challenge, says Cordero, the Chilean climate scientist. The other half is to address the root cause of human-induced climate change: dramatically reducing pollution resulting from global warming.
Swift, like other members of the richest 1% of the Earth’s population, has a disproportionately large impact on climate change. This group alone is responsible for about 20% of global emissions, according to a new report from Oxfam released this week.