Adapting to a hotter world
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Adapting to a hotter world

The arrival of rains this week might have cooled off what has been an unusually hot season, which saw temperatures reaching 45C.

However, questions remain for the public about what is to come.

Will such heatwaves become a permanent feature for Thailand and elsewhere?

Will our government -- the responsible ministries and provincial governors -- help prepare Thailand to cope with more bouts of extreme heat that might reoccur next year and years to come?

After all, heatwaves, along with floods and droughts, are symptoms of climate change, something that the world has tried to collectively address through 2015's Paris Agreement, which requires countries to help reduce emissions and adapt laws and infrastructure to mitigate its impact.

Meanwhile, as the world gets hotter, there are governments rolling out "heat action plans" to help people cope and adapt to the searing heat.

For example, Greece's Athens in 2016 launched plans to increase green areas, expand the use of cool materials, increase shade options, and promote "cooling routes" in parts of the city where the urban heat island effect was more intense.

Freetown City in West Africa's Sierra Leone has also rolled out "heat action plans" with mitigation plans for low-income communities, which include extra shade, mist fans and water sprays in markets.

Other governments facing heat waves are also changing their infrastructure and urban development policies.

Innovations such as heat-reflective colours, cooler materials, and even fountains have been provided in public spaces to help citizens keep cool.

Some labour laws have also been revised to make work hours more flexible, and employers provide cooling-off facilities.

Public health authorities in some nations have overseen special campaigns such as education programmes and medical treatments dealing with diseases such as cardiovascular problems and high blood pressure that are the consequences of heatstroke.

But what we saw happen in Thailand over the past two months is not hopeful. All that the people experienced was government and local administrators urging people to stay indoors and drink plenty of water.

Needless to say, energy consumption was at high levels as people stayed indoors, relying on air conditioning to deal with the heat.

But there were a few good signs.

On May 1, Sai Ngam Pittayakhom in Kamphaeng Phet province, the school was praised by netizens after launching its own heat action plans with new class hours that were shorter, started earlier and let students return home at 2pm.

Two days later, the Office of the Basic Education Commission under the Ministry of Education announced heat action plans for primary schools countrywide.

The plan permits each school to cancel classes and carry on with classes online.

If schools were open, outdoor activities would be banned. Schools must also provide extra water supplies and medical emergency responses to deal with heat stroke.

Thailand's "hot season" will finally come to an end. Yet, policymakers, as well as provincial governors, should prepare better measures to help people cope with what will come in the future.

Just asking people to "stay indoors" and "drink plenty of water" is simply not sufficient.


Bangkok Post editorial column

These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.

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