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Deadly heatwaves threaten economies too

The drought affecting Italy's longest river, the Po, is the worst in 70 years

The drought affecting Italy’s longest river, the Po, is the worst in 70 years.

More frequent and intense heatwaves are the deadliest form of extreme weather exacerbated by global warming, with deaths sometimes in the thousands, but they can also have devastating economic consequences, experts say.

The prolonged and unusual heatwaves gripping the central United States and rolling north through Western Europe, with the thermometer rising above 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit), are likely to trigger both.

Deadly and precious

According to the World Meteorological Organization, very high temperatures caused nearly 10 percent of the two million deaths attributed to extreme weather events from 1970 to 2019.

Moreover, virtually all heat-related deaths have occurred since 2000, especially in the last decade: from 2010 to 2019, scorching heat was responsible for half of the 185,000 recorded deaths from extreme weather.

In Europe, heatwaves were responsible for about 90 percent of weather-related deaths between 1980 and 2022, the European Environment Agency (EEA) has reported.

Heat waves also have economic costs, but they are more difficult to quantify than storm or flood damage and more difficult to insure.

But prolonged periods of high heat can lead to more hospital visits, significant productivity losses in construction and agriculture, lower agricultural yields and even direct damage to infrastructure. Excess mortality also has economic costs.

The EAA estimates that heat waves in 32 European countries between 1980 and 2000 cost 27 to 70 billion euros. The damage over the past 20 years — including the deadly heat wave of 2003, which killed 30,000 more — would almost certainly be higher.

premature death

The national public health agency in France, which will be dominated by extreme conditions in the coming days, calls heatwaves “a largely invisible and underestimated social burden”.

In France alone, heat waves from 2015 to 2020 cost 22 to 37 billion euros due to health costs, loss of well-being and above all “intangible costs due to premature deaths”.

Reduced Productivity

The 2003, 2010, 2015 and 2018 heatwaves in Europe caused damage totaling 0.3 to 0.5 percent of GDP across the continent, and up to two percent of GDP in southern regions, according to a peer-reviewed study in nature communication

This level of impact could multiply by five by 2060 compared to a 1981-2010 baseline without a sharp reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and measures to adapt to high temperatures, the study warned.

According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), sustained temperatures of around 33 or 34°C cause the average worker to lose “50 percent of his or her work capacity.”

According to ICO estimates, by 2030, heatwaves could reduce total hours worked globally by more than two percent, equivalent to 80 million full-time jobs, at a cost of $2.4 trillion, nearly ten times what it was in 1995.

“Climate change-related heat stress will reduce physical outdoor work capacity on a global scale,” the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said in its most recent synthesis report, noting that in some tropical regions, outdoor work could become impossible due to the end of climate change. century for 200 to 250 days a year.

Drought and Agriculture

Both heat waves and drought pose a major threat to agriculture and thus to food security.

Prolonged drought is agriculture’s worst enemy when it comes to extreme weather, but heat waves can also wreak havoc.

According to the French Ministry of Agriculture, a heat wave in 2019 caused a 9 percent drop in corn yields across France and a 10 percent drop in wheat.

A bruise in the United States in 2012 led to a 13 percent drop in corn production and a sharp rise in world prices.

According to the IPCC, heat waves also have a negative effect on livestock farming and milk production.

Drought makes heat waves hotter but less deadly

More information:
David García-León et al, Current and expected regional economic effects of heat waves in Europe, nature communication (2021). DOI: 10.1038/s41467-021-26050-z

© 2022 AFP

Quote: Deadly heatwaves also threaten economies (2022, June 15) retrieved June 15, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-06-deadly-heatwaves-threaten-economies.html

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