“What is the strongest living organism on earth?” Many people say it is the cockroaches that have survived the harshest environment. That is not the right answer. The living organism that has strongest capability to survive is the water bear. The aquatic inveterate with a unique look is only 0.3 to 0.5 millimeters long. Despite its size, it is the only living organism on planet earth that can survive in the vacuum space environment. Surprisingly, the water bear is fatally susceptible to hot weather. A study by Danish scientists showed that about half of water bears died when they were exposed to 37.1 degrees Celsius for about a day while in active state. Scientists predict that the water bear will become extinct if temperatures continue to rise due to global warming. Then, how about human beings that are far more vulnerable to hot weather than the water bear?
Meteorological organizations in various countries are forecasting one of the hottest weathers this summer amid intensifying climate change. The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the British Meteorological Administration announced that this summer will more likely to be the hottest ever summer since they started measuring temperatures. The hottest year until now was 2016 when the weather was affected significantly by El Nino. El Nino did not occur in 2019, but the year saw the second hottest weather as temperatures soared everywhere around the world. Notably, immensely hot heat wave hit the European region. In late July 2019, the daytime high hit 46 degrees Celsius in southern France and the temperature in Paris reached 42.6 degrees Celsius, which was the record high. It was even hotter in the sea. Seawater temperatures in 2019 were the highest ever since they started measuring the seawater temperatures. Meanwhile, hot weather from 2019 continues to affect this summer. In January 2020, the temperature in the entire earth was the highest ever recorded, and the temperatures in February and March were the second highest monthly records. The Korea Meteorological Administration announced that this summer will be one of the hottest summers although not as hot as in the year 2018.
The problem is that the world is facing not only scorching heat but also the COVID-19 pandemic this summer. The International Meteorological Organization warned in a latest report released that chances are high COVID-19 mass infections will occur during the scorching weather season. When heat wave continues to affect, low-income people will visit air-conditioned rest shelters. The air conditioner cools off heat wave but spreads droplets of the coronavirus, and increases the risk of infection. While people cannot visit shelters due to the social distancing campaign, a large number of people in the low-income community can fall victims to heat wave. Senior citizens who are vulnerable to both COVID-19 and heat wave face all the more serious danger. Moreover, if mass infections of the coronavirus occur in the low-income community or among senior citizens, it could bring about the collapse of the medical system, and cause a massive number of deaths.
Countermeasures to heat wave that have been used previously will not be sufficient this summer. We need new measures to cope with heat wave, including the impact of COVID-19. Otherwise, the world could see more deaths due to heat wave than the coronavirus. More than 15,000 people died in France alone in 2003 due to the heat wave that swept Europe. Shocked at the disaster, France enacted a new law and started preparing for disasters. In 2019, France embraced even hotter summer heat wave than the summer in 2003. But the death toll amounted to only some 1,500. Why damage decreased while temperatures increased than before? If the world is well prepared, we can efficiently reduce damage in tandem. It is hoped that Korea will put in place more practical measures for heat wave amid the COVID-19 threat.