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Hot Insights on the Heat and Behaviour Changes

Advertising Agency
Dublin, Ireland
The Youth Lab at THINKHOUSE explores behaviour changes as we experience increasingly dangerous weather conditions, and what that means for brands

This week is, literally, coming in hot. With terrifying record temperatures recorded across Europe, UK, and the US, which follows extreme heat waves (‘living hell’) in India and Pakistan, people are feeling the heat. It is affecting how we eat, sleep, work, travel, play, and of course, feel. The raised temperatures are not only being felt in dangerous physical ways - parts of the UK and Mediterranean are literally on fire - they are triggering climate anxiety for many.

In 52INSIGHTS this week, we’re sweating what happens to people and places as temperatures rise, plus how brands and businesses can address extreme temperatures.



Abnormally hot temperatures have huge effects on day to day life. Not only do they result in death, but they have massive infrastructural implications - highlighting just how connected the issue of climate is to everything else. Two important social infrastructures that are impacted hugely are transport and healthcare. In the UK, means of transportation are literally melting, from roads to airport runways. Different solutions are being used to reduce the effect. To keep trains moving, this week alone bridges are being painted white or covered with foil and commuters are being asked to avoid transport when possible. Inside the temperature is rising too - this means operating theatres are too hot to perform elective surgeries, with some being cancelled. To slow down the rate of glaciers melting, people in Switzerland are covering them with geotextile blankets, which are reported to help keep temperatures down. It’s impacting entertainment too - Pearl Jam had to cancel gigs because of vocal cord damage from the heat and wildfire smoke in France.

“Action is urgently needed to adapt frontline neighbourhoods to cope with extreme weather, with more green spaces and trees for shelter, home insulation to keep homes warm in winter and cool in summer, and air-conditioned community centres for people to get some respite from the heat.” Mike Childs, Head of Science, Policy & Research at Friends of the Earth (source)

We know from a recent IPCC report that 3.3 to 3.6 billion people are living in areas that are highly vulnerable to climate change. So, while the extreme heat being central to the news cycle is new for some, it’s a frightening sign of what’s to come. These dangerous weather events are and will continue to happen more frequently: Sonia Seneviratne, ETH Zurich Climate Scientist, says "on average on land, heat extremes that would have happened once every ten years without human influence on the climate are now three times more frequent."



Some are questioning whether they should they feel guilty about enjoying the hot weather, or how they are not made for it and worrying about goths (fans of the dark usually). Many are calling for more action from corporations and media outlets, as this is something that shouldn’t be normalized or celebrated. As technology adapts to warn people, it’s triggering more anxiety too- “I literally saw a red exclamation mark to reflect a deadly heatwave warning on my Google Maps for the first time ever, today in Berlin.”  

Many young people have been critical of the media reporting, comparing news snippets to real life versions of the dystopian film ‘Don’t Look Up’. One viral clip shows a presenter asking a meteorologist to be less fatalistic and let us enjoy the good weather. This is not a niche feeling or topic - climate change anxiety has over 11.9 million views on TikTok.

“40 degrees is not normal weather - and I am not about to normalise it because even with my windows open the weather is too unbearable. This is not 'lovely weather'. This is a climate emergency - get real.” Tara, 19 via Twitter

Of course, the internet didn’t miss the chance to poke a bit of fun at those in Europe struggling with the heat. Tweets from individuals born in traditionally warmer climates doled out advice on how to stay cool... Some pointed out that the best way to stay cool would be to dismantle the fossil fuel industry, while others took a creative route: “If you’re up in the mountains and/or have simply just ran out of ice, just start crying! The sound of your heartbreaking tears could be enough for the sky to take pity and freeze up your tears. Mauri ora! You’ll never have to wait for ice ever again!”



Of course, hot weather can translate to needing to stay cool, influencing hugely how people spend (or don’t). According to IBM, 41% of shoppers say that summer weather affects their alcoholic beverage purchases, 48% will tackle outdoor home improvements and 77% say summer weather impacts their health and wellness needs.

For those living in places not used to this weather, Dr. Trevor Harley, a Emeritus Professor of Psychology, says they “get excited and many do want just to make the most of it. Just look at the pictures of crowded beaches when the sun comes out.” While the mood boosting sunshine can have a supposedly positive effect, hotter temperatures affect people in other ways too. Extreme heat decreases productivity, which in turn is impacting the economy, potentially lowering the overall annual G.D.P. growth across Europe by 0.5%. Time to normalise siesta culture?

This intense heat is affecting people in so many different ways - for some it is easy to just blast increasingly expensive air-con and ignore what it all means. When not so extreme, sunshine creates happy hormones serotonin and dopamine in humans and Vitamin D, needed for healthy bones. As it gets hotter, people also wear less mingling on nights out - it’s not a surprise people get hornier in the heat. Reflecting this memorable moment, this summer is predicted to be soundtracked “feral girl summer” and “coconut girl summer” (to name a few, according to Spotify). While there is huge anxiety around the raised temperatures, it’s ok and important for young people to find solutions that keep both their bodies and minds chill.



Help People Keep Cool - Many employers were celebrated for responding appropriately to the heatwave. Working from home was largely encouraged to avoid commuting, as well as initiatives such as relaxed dress codes, earlier starts or longer breaks. Employee Management for heat will likely be a new HR initiative as we look to the future. 

Not Always The Right Time For A Reactive Moment - A sunny day has often been a trigger for brand comms, particularly on social media. But with such high levels of climate anxiety, celebrating sunshine can feel tone deaf. Consider the imagery and symbols that are put out into the world as they really matter.

Climate Injustice - As more people become affected by extreme weather events, the more we recognise how commonplace they are, and sadly the reality that everyone is equal when it comes to dealing with such extreme temperatures. We’ve started to see some countries take action to support vulnerable people - for example local governments in Berlin created a “heat aid” program for street-based people. Brands and organisations can also consider ways in to help those most vulnerable. 

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