The Heat Is On

    Nothing makes you appreciate a cool Nordic summer like spending a couple of weeks under the scorching sun of a holiday destination located somewhere closer to the equator. Back in Sweden, I can suddenly focus again, even during those most soporific siesta hours. The fine drizzle feels like a caress on my face as I rediscover the joy of jogging. And aren’t rain-heavy grey skies just the perfect backdrop for magnificent sunsets?

    Our tolerance for weather variations is regrettably low. Mind you, I do know someone who enjoys running outdoors in Dubai, in the summer! He’s the exception, though. Most of us start feeling uncomfortable the moment temperatures move above thirty degrees Celsius. Heat slows us down, not least mentally. Research shows that areas of the brain responsible for solving complex cognitive tasks are impaired by heat stress. And, as we are not thinking clearly, it is more likely we become frustrated, or even aggressive.

    At the very least, heat waves can exacerbate our eco-anxiety, as a recent study of British Columbians’ mental health after the apocalyptic heat dome of 2021 indicates. The Canadian researchers view climate change anxiety as “an emerging and pressing public health concern.” I wonder if it means that those long-suffering fervent environmentalists among us have certifiable mental health issues, according to them.

    Well, we’d better brace ourselves, folks. Data gathered by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) shows that since 1980, the number of heat waves[1] has increased by a factor of fifty around the world. ‘Told you so,’ as any of the scientists involved in compiling the IPCC Special Report on Extremes might say. And if they were right about this, how about other predictions? According to IPCC, temperatures will rise more quickly in European areas than elsewhere. The current forecast for our beloved Mediterranean coastline, for instance, is a ghastly cocktail of climatic changes: temperature extremes, more droughts and aridity, precipitation decrease, wildfires, extreme sea levels, less snow cover, and wind speed decrease. No longer the paradise, it would appear.

    Not that the North is exempt, of course, as demonstrated by the recent spell of warmish weather in the UK. On that occasion, the WMO Secretary-General, Professor Petteri Taalas, called this kind of heatwaves the new normal. “We will see stronger extremes,” he proclaimed, like a modern-day Kassandra. “We have pumped so much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere that the negative trend will continue for decades. We haven’t been able to reduce our emissions globally. I hope that this will be a wake-up call for governments and that it will have an impact on voting behaviours in democratic countries,” added Taalas, for good measure.

    The professor is right, though. It’s time to wake up from our summer slumber. There is work to be done and elections to cast our votes in. Let’s not allow the scorching sun to dim our judgment and use the frustration and anger it causes as fuel for action instead. Wouldn’t it be great if we could turn that heat-induced eco-anxiety of ours into something positive?

    Welcome back to work!

    [1] A heat wave, as defined by the WMO, is a period of at least three consecutive days during which temperatures significantly exceed the historical average.

    Image courtesy of Gerd Altmann from Pixabay
    Julia Axelsson, CAIA
    Julia Axelsson, CAIA
    Julia has accumulated experience in asset management for more than 20 years in Stockholm and Beijing, in portfolio management, asset allocation, fund selection and risk management. In December 2020, she completed a program in Sustainability Studies at the University of Linköping. Julia speaks Mandarin, Bulgarian, Hindi, Russian, Swedish, Urdu and English. She holds a Master in Indology from Sofia University and has completed studies in Economics at both Stockholm University and Stockholm School of Economics.

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