• Business Business

Group of older women file lawsuit against government for subjecting them to extreme heat: 'It is difficult to go outside'

Older women had the highest mortality rate for heat-related deaths last summer in a study.

KlimaSeniorinnen Schweiz

Photo Credit: Klimaseniorinnen

While Switzerland is known for its snow-peaked Alpine mountains, it is not immune to our planet's overheating. And as the nation swelters during Europe's recent heat waves, older Swiss women are taking legal action against their government for failing to protect them from climate change

KlimaSeniorinnen Schweiz (known in English as the "Senior Women for Climate Protection Switzerland") is a group of Swiss women who have filed a lawsuit with the European Court of Human Rights, the highest human rights court in Europe, The New York Times reported.

The group has accused the Swiss government of violating their human rights and not doing enough to shield them from extreme heat.

Like the rest of the world, Switzerland has experienced record-breaking heat in recent years, and older women are disproportionately impacted. In 2022, heat waves killed over 61,000 people throughout Europe, the majority of whom were women older than 80, as the Times reported based on a paper in Nature Medicine.

In Switzerland specifically, older women had the highest mortality rate for heat-related deaths last summer in a study. 

KlimaSeniorinnen Schweiz hopes its lawsuit will force the Swiss government to strengthen its climate policy to limit rising temperatures. While the group acknowledges that extreme heat endangers everyone, it is using older women's specific vulnerability to heat-related illness to bolster its lawsuit. 

With over 2,300 members as of spring 2023, the plaintiff's case could pave the way for more Europeans to take legal action and force governments to improve environmental policies. 

This case is the first of its kind in Europe, and if the court sides with the KlimaSeniorinnen Schweiz, it could set a precedent for similar cases in the 46 countries that are members of the human rights court. 

The court held a public hearing March 29, and the group anticipates a final judgment by the end of this year or in 2024.

Although KlimaSeniorinnen Schweiz members have diverse backgrounds and speak a variety of languages, they are united by their shared concern for their lives. They described their struggles doing household chores and activities during Switzerland's heat waves to the Times

"It is difficult to go outside — it is difficult to breathe," Fatima Heussler, a 71-year-old Zurich resident and KlimaSeniorinnen Schweiz member, told the outlet. 

Isabelle Joerg, a 70-year-old group member from Basel, said: "I feel like I need to protect myself. I used to love summer — and now I can be threatened by it."  

Join our free newsletter for cool news and actionable info that makes it easy to help yourself while helping the planet.

Cool Divider