Climate crisis | Paris prepares for 50 degrees Celsius

After experiencing a second heat wave within a month, with temperatures exceeding 40 degrees Celsius, Paris is preparing for the worst in the coming decades.

Posted at 5:00 a.m

Jean Thomas Levier

Jean Thomas Levier
Journalism

Paris, August 4, 2036. The city of light is stifling. Air conditioners are no longer supplied. Construction sites at a standstill. Passenger trains slow as extended rails twist with heat. at 50°C. in the shade.

The scenario is fictitious, but the French capital is preparing for it: the Paris Council on July 5 established an “information and assessment mission” entitled “Paris at 50 degrees”.

This commission, made up of all the political parties elected to the Paris Council, will work to adapt the city to this future reality.

“Scientists can no longer rule out a peak temperature of 50 degrees Celsius” within a few decades, he said Journalism Dan Leert, Deputy Mayor of Paris in charge of environmental transformation and the climate, water and energy plan.

Photo provided by the city of Paris

Dan Leert, Deputy Mayor of Paris in charge of environmental transformation and the climate, water and energy plan

He adds that the Paris climate forecast published last September also indicates that heat waves will “be more frequent, more intense, more and more early or later”, making them “the number one climate challenge in Paris”.

The abnormally early heat wave that hit France in June is evidence that “the climate is already changing,” says Dan Leert, who warned that the scorching and deadly summer of 2003, during which 19,000 people died in France, “will become the norm.” “.

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The number of “tropical nights”, at more than 20°C, will double by three by 2030 and seven by 2085.

The climate of Paris will resemble that of a city in southern Spain like Seville.

Dan Leert, Deputy Mayor of Paris

Unlivable for the most vulnerable

Heat peaks at 50°C in the shade, and therefore more in direct sunlight, would pose a major public health problem for the French capital.

“Paris can become unlivable for several weeks a year, especially for the most vulnerable population,” council member Fatoumata Kone, chair of the group of elected environmentalists, said during the July 5 session.

“Paris at 50°C is not a prophecy, nor a conjecture, nor a hypothesis, it is a fact,” added environmental consultant Alexandre Florentine, at the start of the creation of this information and assessment mission.

Photo submitted by Alexandre Florentine

Alexandre Florentine, City Councilor of Paris, member of the Committee on Environment – Climate and Biodiversity – Hygiene of the Paris Council

In the face of this expected heat, there are three options, which he later summarized in an interview with Journalism “It’s cook, run, or work.”

Because Paris is not ready to face what awaits it, warns the person who also works as a consultant on climate change, and mentions the disruptions in rail transport, because of the deformation of the rails due to the heat; Classes closed because schools are not air conditioned; Malfunction of the air conditioner above 42 ° C or an overload of the electrical network.

She called Paris to change her face

Paris’s adaptation to future “super heat waves” and temperature extremes will not happen without changing the face of the city.

“It is necessary that the appearance of Paris change,” says Alexandre Florentine, according to whom it will be necessary, for example, to review the colors and materials of the roofs of buildings, which turn attic apartments into furnaces.

Photo by Julian de Rosa, AFP archives

Rooftops in the center of Paris

He also explains that it would take less bitumen and change the color of the remaining “to lighter colours, as in southern Europe”.

Dan Leert agrees, but emphasizes that the issue is complex.

Paris is a very metallic city, built with a temperate climate.

Dan Leert, Deputy Mayor of Paris

In addition to using different materials, we should also consider a different urban layout, says Mr. Liert.

“We have to change the way we think and design Paris,” he says, referring to new solutions such as building shade structures, as in southern Europe, when planting trees is not possible.

The fact-finding and evaluation mission will present its conclusions within six months; They will contribute to strengthening the climate plan of the city of Paris, the next version of which is expected to appear in 2024, or could be realized before, explains Dan Leart.

But Alexandre Florentine cautions that adaptation has its limits.

He says, “Suppose we know how to do everything at 50°C, and it is not certain that we will know how to do everything at 55°C. We should certainly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. [gaz à effet de serre] globally. »

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