If global warming increases by two more degrees Celsius, the death rate from extreme temperatures will increase significantly, according to a terrifying new study. The researchers expect heat-related deaths in summer will rocket up at a non-linear rate as the climate heats up.
The study, published in Environmental Research Letters, examined climate change’s impact on death rates in England and Wales. Researchers focused on the risks of summer heat and winter cold. They predict temperature-related mortality to increase by 42% on the hottest days of summer. This would bring the death count from our current level of around 117 deaths per day to about 166 deaths on the year’s 10 hottest days.
“The increase in mortality risk under current warming levels is mainly notable during heatwaves, but with further warming, we would see risk rise on average summer days in addition to escalating risks during heatwaves,” said lead author Dr. Katty Huang of University College London, as reported by Newswise. “What this means is that we shouldn’t expect past trends of impact per degree of warming to apply in the future. One degree of global warming beyond 2°C would have a much more severe impact on health in England and Wales than one degree warming from pre-industrial levels, with implications for how the NHS [National Health Service] can cope.”
What if the globe heats up by 2.5°C, or even three? If the climate gets three degrees hotter, researchers predict mortality could increase by 75% during heatwaves. The good news is that deaths from extreme cold in winter should decrease — unless there’s a bad winter storm.
“As the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change impacts report recently showed, it is increasingly common to examine how different levels of mean global warming raise the risk of significant harm to people and society,” said project lead Andrew Charlton-Perez of the University of Reading, as reported by Newswise. “Our study shows that because death rates will go up significantly if countries experience very high temperatures, limiting the average global rise in temperatures is likely to have substantial benefits for the overall health of the population.”
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