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WEATHER

Climate deal could cut weather disasters: UN

Weather-related disasters have grown more frequent over the last 20 years, claiming more than 600,000 lives, a Geneva-based UN agency said on Monday, issuing a further call for nations to strike a landmark deal on climate change.

Climate deal could cut weather disasters: UN
Woman squats in window of flooded hall after heavy rains in Shanghai in August. Photo: STR/AFP

The report from the United Nations agency for disaster risk reduction (UNISDR) said floods, storms and other extreme weather events have killed 606,000 people since 1995, “with an additional 4.1 billion people injured, left homeless or in need of emergency assistance.”
   
The report noted that while there was no way to establish how much of the rise in such disasters was caused by climate change, the link between the planet's changing climate and extreme weather was clear.
   
“The contents of this report underline why it is so important that a new climate change agreement emerges from the COP21 in Paris”, said UNISDR chief Margareta Wahlstrom, referring to crunch climate talks starting next week.
   
The talks that open in the French capital on November 30 are tasked with crafting a 195-nation pact to curb greenhouse gas emissions blamed for dangerous levels of climate change.
   
Between 2005 and 2014, the leading database that tracks weather-linked disasters recorded 335 such incidents, a 14 percent increase compared to the previous decade and nearly double the number recorded from 1985 to 1994.
   
Overall, the report said, the planet has seen “a sustained rise in the numbers of floods and storms”, noting that drought, heatwaves and extreme cold were also growing concerns.
   
According to UNISDR data, flooding accounted for 47 percent of all weather disasters over the last 20 years, affecting more than 2.3 billion people, the vast majority of whom live in Asia.
   
A full 75 percent of the 4.1 billion people affected were in either China or India, underscoring the extent to which densely populated areas in those countries were disproportionately vulnerable.
   
Next in line in terms of the number of people affected over the reporting period were Bangladesh (131 million people) and the Philippines (130 million people), while Brazil (51 million people) led the way in the Americas and Kenya was the most affected country in Africa (47 million people).
   
The report also detailed the heavy damage to property and infrastructure inflicted by extreme weather.
   
This includes 87 million homes damaged or destroyed, with hundreds of thousands of schools, hospitals and other key facilities affected worldwide.
   
In total, UNISDR data counted $1.9 trillion (€1.8 trillion in financial losses attributable to extreme weather events.
   
Given the correlation between climate change and extreme weather, the planet will “witness a continued upward trend in weather-related disasters in the decades ahead,” the report warned.

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WEATHER

‘Don’t sleep naked’: How to get a good night’s sleep in a Swiss heatwave

As temperatures climb again, many people may struggle to get a good night's sleep in Switzerland. Here are some expert tips to help you even when it's sweltering hot.

‘Don’t sleep naked’: How to get a good night’s sleep in a Swiss heatwave

Switzerland’s summers tend to get hotter and this season has seen its share of heatwaves, bringing temperatures closer to 40C and making it almost impossible to sleep.

This could mean trouble for residents of a country better prepared to bear the cold weather than the extreme heat.

The Swiss Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) has three ‘golden rules’ for how to make it through heatwaves; avoid exercise during the hottest part of the day, keep the heat out of your house however you can, drink and eat smart (fresh foods and lots of water).

With night temperatures in some regions above 20C, Swiss residents will also need some help getting through the night.

Here are a few tips to keep cool overnight and enjoy better sleep despite the heat of the night.

Don’t sleep naked

It’s tempting to ditch the PJs when it’s this warm overnight. But sleep experts say this is a mistake, as any moisture from sweat accumulates on your body.

Cotton pyjamas and cotton sheets are very effective in absorbing and removing sweat from your body.

Give a little help to your internal clock

Many people think that it is only the extreme heat in summer making your sleep seem a bit worse than in the colder months. But the fact that days are brighter for longer makes a huge difference.

READ ALSO: How Switzerland’s largest cities are combating the heat

As light suppresses our body’s production of melatonin, the hormone that signals that it is time to sleep, the longer days irritate our internal clock, according to sleep experts.

The old tip of turning off your devices to avoid the blue light is also extra crucial. So around one hour before going to bed, you can start your “darkening” ritual throughout your home.

In that sense, it’s also better to avoid naps during the day to keep a better sleep routine.

Try to cool your room and yourself

Of course, the cooler temperatures are in your bedroom when you go to sleep, the better. You can help get temperatures a few degrees down by following these tips: keep the blinds and windows shut during the worst of the day and ventilate the cooler night breeze during the night.

Sleeping during a heatwave can be difficult. Photo: Yuris Alhumaydy / Unsplash

You can also moisten your curtains just before bedtime and leave the window open; the water evaporation will make it a bit cooler. If you can, another tip is to put your mattress on the floor as hot air rises – excellent advice for those sleeping on a bunk bed.

Don’t forget to turn off (and unplug!) electrical appliances, as those are heat sources.

READ ALSO: Eight great swimming spots to escape the Swiss summer heat

To cool yourself, you could take a lukewarm evening shower (not a hot one, those will make your body react by generating heat).

Fans and humidity help

As long as you’ve kept your room relatively cool, fans work. They help evaporate sweat which, in turn, helps your body regulate its temperature.

Putting a bowl of ice in front of the fan can also help cool the room.

Some people swear by dampening their sheets before going to bed. But if you’re not used to it, the feeling can be a little disconcerting. You can also place multiple ice containers in the corners of your room, which will melt slowly overnight and cool the air.

Why is it essential to have a good night’s sleep?

Several days of scorching temperatures can cause heat stress, according to the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute.

If the nights are not cool enough, the body can’t recover from the heat of the day, creating a dangerous condition called “thermal stress”, which can be fatal for the elderly and other vulnerable people.

While there are no statistics showing how many people have fallen victim to heat stress during the most recent heatwave, several cantons have implemented a system of home visits and frequent phone contact with this at-risk group.

READ MORE: How to keep your cool during Switzerland’s heatwave

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