As fossil fuel emissions creep higher, warming up the planet, they are fuelling harsher, longer and more frequent heatwaves that can kill greater numbers of people.

Parts of India and Pakistan in May saw temperatures hit an unbearable 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit) - a spike scientists said was 30 times more likely because of climate change.

This week, heatwaves of well above 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38C) are expected across a wide swathe of the United States - and even normally comfortable London is predicted to top 32 degrees Celsius (90 F) on Friday.

“These temperatures should serve as a dire warning for all of us … to better prepare to manage dangerous heatwaves,” warned Francesco Rocca, president of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societes (IFRC).

But while preparations are lagging globally, experts say, many cities are exploring innovative ideas to keep people safe - from insurance policies that fund preparations ahead of a heatwave to shade canopies that generate solar power.

Here’s what you should know about growing heat risk - and how to deal with it:

What risks do heatwaves present?

Often termed “silent killers”, heatwaves lead to more deaths each year than any other disaster, health experts say.

But because most of those deaths occur at home, with heat aggravating pre-existing vulnerabilities such as heart disease, they are less visible and often undercounted.

What’s being done to reduce the risks?

Greece’s capital, Athens, is piloting a system to categorise heatwaves by threat level - much like hurricane warnings, said its “chief heat officer” Eleni Myrivili, whose job title is in itself an innovation.

The system uses an algorithm that brings in weather predictions and data from past mortality in heatwaves to give people a clearer idea of the level of risk on any given day, she said, describing it as a “game-changer”.

In Tokyo, officials are experimenting with wind tunnels to increase airflow in hot areas, while Tel Aviv is installing light-coloured fabric sun shades with solar panels in public squares which generate power to light the areas at night, making them safer and more attractive to use round-the-clock.

Cape Town and Buenos Aires are putting in place light-coloured and other cooling roofs on public housing, while Kuala Lumpur is looking at a “district cooling” system using renewable energy and natural water bodies to pump cooling water to homes.

In some Australian cities, Red Cross workers now make calls to vulnerable people on hot days - and dispatch emergency services if they go unanswered.

Read the full article about mitigating the risks of heatwaves from the Thomson Reuters Foundation at Eco-Business.