A new study warns that the growing environmental trend of summer heat waves could lead to a 500-percent increase in heat-related deaths in New York City by 2080. The report evaluates a range of potential outcomes of the soaring temps in relationship to the city’s demographics, with an eye on the city’s efforts to address the impending heat waves. Mayor Bill de Blasio’s OneNYC sustainability plan aims to reduce some of the risks associated with climate change, but there may also be a need for more cooling centers and more air-conditioning in buildings around the city based on these findings.
Between 2000 and 2006, an average of 638 people in NYC died annually from heat-related causes. The new study projects that, with a carefully crafted and well executed plan, the city could reduce the annual deaths to an estimated 167 within this century. However, in the worst case scenario where the city’s leadership fails to adequately address the changing climate, heat-related deaths could increase to 3,331 each year.
A variety of factors contribute to a person’s likelihood to die during a heat wave, including access to cool spaces (either at home or elsewhere), health conditions, and age. An increase in the frequency and intensity of heat waves is linked to an increased risk of death for the city’s elderly, as well as the homeless population and low-income residents. The findings of this study combined with the known risk of rising sea levels puts NYC in a unique and dangerous position as global temperatures continue to rise, creating ever more serious public health risks.
The study was recently published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.