Athens’ chief heat officer prepares the city for the climate crisis

The summer heat is hitting sooner and harder than ever across Europe. By 2050, temperatures could be as much as 2.5°C higher than today. 

Southern European countries are set to be most impacted by the intense warming.

Now, as much of Europe faces the consequences of unprecedented heatwaves, Athens in Greece is already preparing for the future. 

Last year, the city appointed Eleni Myrivili as its chief heat officer. Her job is to find ways for the Greek capital to cope with ever hotter heatwaves. She is the first and only person in Europe to hold such a position. 

“We’ve prepared much better than last year, we’re much more prepared this year,” she told Euronews. 

Temperatures this week have already hit a scorching 40°C and Athens has launched its first ‘Heat Alert’ warning residents and visitors of the extreme weather. It’s all part of the city’s plan to deal with the reality of increasingly extreme weather.  

How is Greece preparing for hotter summers?

“We’ve been focusing on three different pillars of actions,” Myrivili explains. 

The first is focused on raising awareness of the dangers. Athens is analysing data to categorise heatwaves which should lead to the creation of three categories: high, medium and low risk to health

“It’s a very innovative methodology that we’ve used, it’s not just meteorological, it has within the categories the particular risk for the health of people.”

The second pillar involves ensuring that people are prepared to deal with extreme heat. 

“We have [outlined] several ways of protecting the most vulnerable during heatwaves and of supporting the people that are more exposed to extreme heat,” Athens’ heat officer says. 

Finally, Athens is putting in place significant green infrastructure improvements to help reduce heat. A project is underway to harness water from an ancient, underground Roman aqueduct in order to green the city

It is still operational and drains around 800,000 cubic metres of water into the sea every year. Nothing is currently being done with the water so Athens is hoping to use it to create belts of greenery around the city where the aqueduct flows. 

As chief heat officer, Myrivili is making sure the “heat factor is high on the agenda” with this project. 

Watch the video above to hear from the chief heat officer of Athens.

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