Heat is a killer – and climate change is pushing up the body count. On average, about 37 percent of heat deaths could be due to human-caused climate change, according to A. new study in Nature Climate change.
The study looked at data from 732 places in 43 countries over a period of about three decades, from 1991-2018. They used information including heat deaths and temperature measurements from those places to build computer models that calculated how many deaths could be attributed to climate change. The numbers varied depending on location, with a greater percentage of climate change-related deaths in warmer countries than in cooler countries.
In total, about 166,000 people died from heat-related deaths between 1998 and 2017, according to the World Health Organisation. Thanks to climate change, more people are exposed to heat waves than ever before. “Between 2000 and 2016, the number of people exposed to heat waves has increased by about 125 million,” the WHO estimates.
There is one notable limitation to this new study – although hundreds of sites were included, many areas in Africa and Southeast Asia weren’t due to a lack of data. Gathering that information in the future will be vital for new efforts to create global accounts of heat-related deaths and illnesses.
“The countries where we do not have the necessary health data are often some of the poorest and most susceptible to climate change, and are, in terms, also the expected major hotspots for future population growth,” said climate change researcher Dann Mitchell. . wrote in an article for the newspaper. “Getting this data is critical for science to provide the information needed to help these countries adapt.”
“We view these issues of climate change as something the next generation will face,” said Ana Maria Vicedo-Cabrera, the paper’s lead author in an interview. with The New York Times. “It is something we are already dealing with. We throw stones at ourselves. “
That’s in line with other research showing that climate change is already a disaster for human health. The elderly are particularly vulnerable, with heat-related deaths for this age group increasing by about 54 percent between 2000 and 2018. Some parts of the planet are more affected than others, with extreme conditions even more common than predicted. .