More days of ‘extreme heat stress’ are wake-up call for climate targets - Soc Dems

Heat-related mortality has increased by around 30% in past 20 years, EU report finds

A report showing that Europe is seeing an increasing number of days with “extreme heat stress” is a “wake-up call for governments across Europe”, Social Democrats TD Jennifer Whitmore has said.

The report, published on Monday by the EU Copernicus Climate Change Service and the World Meteorological Organisation, said Europe is seeing an increasing number of days with at least “strong heat stress”, and in 2023 experienced a record number of days with “extreme heat stress”.

Heat-related mortality has increased by around 30 per cent in the past 20 years and heat-related deaths increased by an estimate 94 per cent of the European regions monitored, it concluded.

The significant increase in heat-related deaths in Europe over the past two decades “lays bare the dire consequences of countries failing to meet their climate action targets”, according to Ms Whitmore.


In June the Atlantic Ocean west of Ireland and around the United Kingdom was impacted by a marine heatwave that was classified as “extreme” and in some areas “beyond extreme”, with sea surface temperatures as much as five degrees above average, the report said.

Ms Whitmore, who is the party’s spokesperson on climate and biodiversity, said: “As we mark Earth Day 2024 today, this report is yet another wake-up call for governments across Europe.”

Heat-related deaths were at the heart of a recent landmark legal case taken by the so-called ‘Swiss Grannies’ in the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). The group, representing 2,400 older women, had argued that senior citizens were more likely to die in heatwaves. Earlier this month the court found that weak Swiss government climate policies had violated their human rights.

“The ECHR ruling will put countries throughout Europe, including Ireland, under legal pressure in domestic courts to meet their climate action targets. While a number of countries made written submissions to the court last year, Ireland, along with Switzerland, actually sent a legal team to Strasbourg to challenge the women’s case,” Ms Whitmore said.

“As it has become blatantly obvious that this Government will miss its climate action targets, I can only assume it was the Minister [Eamon Ryan’s] aim to prevent any possible cases being taken directly against the State. However, Minister Ryan’s decision to intervene in the Swiss case is completely at odds with his own Climate Action Plan and could have undermined efforts to hold governments to account for failures in meeting targets.”

Reacting to the report, climate scientist Prof John Sweeney told RTÉ's Claire Byrne show its findings were “bleak” and there was “growing concern” that things were moving quicker than previously thought. The political reaction across Europe was “disappointing”, he said.

Jade Wilson

Jade Wilson

Jade Wilson is a reporter for The Irish Times