Some cities are appointing a Chief Heat Officer

The CHOs are new institutional figures tasked with coordinating the adaptation of urban areas to rising temperatures caused by climate change.

The most recent appointment is that of Bushra Afreen, new Chief Heat Officer (CHO) for the city of Dhaka, in Bangladesh. In 2021, Jane Gilbert was the first CHO to be called to coordinate urban policies to respond to climate challenges, including sea level rise and extreme weather events, which afflict the present and future of Miami. The other CHOs, all women, can currently be counted on one hand: Eugenia Kargbo, in Freetown, Sierra Leone, Elissavet Bargianni, in Athens, together with Tiffany Crawford and Krista Milne, a tandem designated for the city of Melbourne.

The role of Chief Heat Officer was first established and formalized by the American think tank, the Adrienne Arsht-Rockefeller Foundation Resilience Center (also known as Arsht-Rock). The aim was to provide a catalyst for cities to rethink their strategies for adapting urban planning in response to climate change. The United Nations also supports this vision, and from 2022, a Global CHO monitors the overall efforts of different cities and promote good practices. Eleni Myrivili, former CHO of Athens, currently holds the position.

The coordination and planning of heat wave reduction strategies, with particular attention to the most vulnerable areas, remains central among the tasks of the CHOs. Additionally, citizens are provided with information. According to Arsht-Rock data, 25% of the world's cities will experience an increase in temperatures of 7° between now and 2100. There is an urgent need to increase collective awareness, particularly among those who reside in areas that are most vulnerable.

Opening image: Dhaka via Unsplash, photo Shafiqul Islam

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