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Experts warn of dire health risks, increased mortality from climate change

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People will be unable to be outside in the future due to the serious health problems and increase of deaths stemming from heatstroke, experts have warned as they called for a holistic approach to address climate change.

Local academic and research specialists sounded the alarm over urban warming on Friday, as the infrastructure and human activity emit even more heat within cities.

However, experts point out that the urban environment is not adequately considered in global climate change efforts, particularly in the goal of limiting the global average temperature increase to less than 1.5°C by 2050.

Professor of Environmental Engineering at the University of Cyprus, Marina Neophytou, emphasised the need to include the built environment in local plans to mitigate temperature increases and called for a holistic approach to address climate change.

Cyprus, with its temperatures soaring up to 46°C, faces even greater challenges as buildings in cities contribute to doubling the local temperature increase, according to research at the University of Cyprus.

To address global warming effectively, the state should adopt a holistic approach and prioritise all sectors while involving citizens in the decision-making processes. Neophytou also stressed that environmental and energy issues should not be treated separately, and cooperation with the Turkish Cypriot community is crucial and should be developed further.

Based on current climate models, it is estimated that temperatures will increase mortality by 2.5 times by 2050, with a rise in heat exhaustion cases. In 2022 alone, about 62,000 people died from heat-related issues.

Experts warn that the consequences of global warming will be severe, limiting people’s ability to enjoy outdoor activities and impacting their quality of life. Moreover, it will lead to significant health problems and increased mortality due to heatstroke, the professor said.

Outdoor occupations, like construction, will also face reduced productivity, especially during the hot summer period.

However, there is already mature scientific knowledge available that can be applied by the state to combat global warming and ensure the public’s quality of life. Neophytou urged timely action to prevent energy poverty and avoid EU fines for the use of conventional energy sources.

Meanwhile, an ongoing research project of the University of Cyprus with the participation of Environmental and Electrical Engineers is attempting to estimate the extreme energy needs up to 2050, taking into account climate change and the city’s built environment.

To address the issue effectively, Neophytou proposed the creation of energy communities on the island, following successful models in other European countries. Other interventions include incorporating greenery at street and pavement levels, using cold materials in asphalt and roofs, and adopting a bioclimatic and holistic design for new buildings and the wider urban environment as a means of reducing energy requirements.

For his part, the Professor at the Energy, Environment and Water Resources Research Centre of the Cyprus Institute, Salvatore Carlucci, praised the participation of the Limassol municipality in the European Cities Mission project, which aims to achieve 100 climate-neutral and smart cities by 2030. If successful, he said, this could serve as a model for other Mediterranean coastal cities.

Carlucci emphasised the need for coordination among all actors, both European and national, to provide appropriate financial tools, governance, policy mechanisms, and updated laws and regulations to promote resilience within cities.

However, he acknowledged that unpredictable factors like economic conditions and political instability can complicate this already complex problem.

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