Heat is an invisible and insidious killer. Heat is one of those climate hazards that you don’t really see. It’s hard for people to talk about it. You don’t see flying roofs and cars flooded. It is really important to get people to understand why it is dangerous. — Eleni Myrivili, 'Chief Heat Officer' for Athens
Heat is an invisible and insidious killer. Heat is one of those climate hazards that you don’t really see. It’s hard for people to talk about it. You don’t see flying roofs and cars flooded. It is really important to get people to understand why it is dangerous. — Eleni Myrivili, 'Chief Heat Officer' for Athens
Athens Is Only Getting Hotter. Its New ‘Chief Heat Officer’ Hopes to Cool It Down.
On the hottest day of Greece’s record-breaking heat wave, when temperatures in Athens rose to 111 degrees Fahrenheit and wildfires choked the air, Eleni Myrivili stopped hanging laundry on her rooftop behind the Acropolis because she could hardly breathe from the heat.

“I could only take short, kind of burning breaths,” she said, recalling that ash from the fires also turned her black clothes white. “It was scary.”

The heat’s intensity (as high as 44 degrees on the Celsius scale) only increased the urgency that Ms. Myrivili brings to her new job as Athens’ — and Europe’s — first “chief heat officer,” tasked with giving one of the world’s most ancient cities an inhabitable future.

As heat waves have been scorching Athens, the continent’s most sweltering capital, new wildfires broke out this past week in the city, adding to the more than 200,000 acres of forest consumed by wildfires around the country.

It is not just Greece. In recent days, a heat wave on the Italian island of Sicily appears to have resulted in the hottest recorded temperature in European history, and fires have broken out across the Italian south. Europe’s summer of natural disasters has included increasingly frequent extreme weather events that have caused fatal flooding in Germany and Belgium, as well as in Turkey. Every week there is a new nightmare.

Ms. Myrivili’s appointment is a recognition of that new reality. But it is also a foreboding sign that having someone to grapple with suffocating temperatures may be a mainstay of the municipal cityscape, as necessary and unremarkable as a transportation, sanitation or police commissioner.

“Heat is an invisible and insidious killer,” Ms. Myrivili said. “Heat is one of those climate hazards that you don’t really see. It’s hard for people to talk about it. You don’t see flying roofs and cars flooded. It is really important to get people to understand why it is dangerous.”


She predicted that without action, the future for Athens would be bleak and airless. The capital would become more of an “urban heat island,” she said, with empty squares and cafes, fewer tourists and an exodus of residents who have the means and opportunities to live elsewhere.

Athens, a vibrant, chaotic place, would wilt in the sun.
Read the full article: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/08/21/world/europe/athens-is-only-getting-hotter-its-new-chief-heat-officer-hopes-to-cool-it-down.html