Climate Change-Fueled Heatwaves Could Kill Millions

 In Iraq

Blistering heat­waves are break­ing tem­per­a­ture records around the globe this year, from Iraq to the American Southwest. And it’s only going to get worse, as cli­mate change accel­er­ates.

By the end of this cen­tu­ry, extreme heat spells could kill rough­ly as many people as all infec­tious dis­eases com­bined, includ­ing HIV, malar­ia and yellow fever, accord­ing to a new study.

The find­ings: Heatwaves will kill an addi­tion­al 73 people per 100,000 by 2100, under a sce­nario in which nations con­tin­ue to pump out high levels of green­house gas emis­sions (known as RCP8.5), accord­ing to research by the Climate Impact Lab, a group of cli­mate econ­o­mists and researchers at sev­er­al US uni­ver­si­ties.

In some of the hottest and poor­est parts of the world, like Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sudan, the mor­tal­i­ty rate could reach or exceed 200 deaths per 100,000.

But … A grow­ing number of cli­mate researchers argue such a high-end sce­nario, though often used, is too pes­simistic given flat­ten­ing global emis­sions. Under a more opti­mistic sce­nario in which green­house gas pol­lu­tion peaks around 2040 and begin falling there­after, addi­tion­al deaths would decline to 11 per 100,000. Depending on the pop­u­la­tion at the point, that could still be around a mil­lion extra fatal­i­ties.

Adapt: The 73 deaths pro­jec­tion takes into account invest­ments into cli­mate adap­tions that richer nations are likely to make into things like air con­di­tion­ing and urban cool­ing cen­ters, based on his­toric pat­terns. If a coun­try can afford it, adap­ta­tions are well worth the cost, cut­ting the death rate by 29% and shrink­ing the blow to domes­tic GDP. But many poor, hot nations, which will already suffer dis­pro­por­tion­ate­ly from wors­en­ing heat waves, won’t have that luxury.

Methods: The researchers drew their con­clu­sions by ana­lyz­ing the his­toric links between tem­per­a­ture records and mor­tal­i­ty data in dozens of nations, and pro­ject­ed future deaths using highly region­al cli­mate pro­jec­tions.

MIT Technology Review source|articles

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