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Sunday, September 26, 2021

Extreme temperatures cause millions of excess deaths each year: study

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TORONTO — Temperature-related deaths caused by climate change are on the rise across the globe, and studies suggest that heat-related deaths will continue to increase as a result of climate change.

The Barcelona Institute for Global Health published a study in The Lancet Planetary Health, where researchers indicate that a decline in cold-related deaths will not offset an increase in heat-related deaths.

Researchers looked at mortality and temperature data collected from 16 European countries between 1998 and 2012. They found that seven per cent of deaths registered during this period were attributed to temperature-related fatalities, and that cold-related deaths were 10 times higher than heat-related deaths.

Using epidemiological models, the researchers found that unless measures to address a warming climate are implemented right away, heat-related deaths could overtake cold-related deaths by mid-century.

The team of researchers used four models to make projections under three different greenhouse gas scenarios.

“All of the models show a progressive increase in temperatures and, consequently, a decrease in cold-attributable mortality and an increase in heat-attributable deaths,” ISGlobal researcher Èrica Martínez and lead author of the study said in a press release.

The main difference in the statistical models, said Martinez, is the rate at which the heat-related deaths increase.

“The data suggest that the total number of temperature-attributable deaths will stabilize and even decrease in the coming years, but that this will be followed by a very sharp increase, which could occur sometime between the middle and the end of the century, depending on greenhouse gas emissions,” she said.

Another researcher on the team said that Europe has seen a marked increase in heat over other continents in recent decades.

“The incidence of this phenomenon is uneven, with Mediterranean countries being more vulnerable than the rest. Our models also project a disproportionate increase in heat-attributable mortality in Mediterranean countries, due to a significant rise in summer temperatures and this greater vulnerability to heat,” Marcos Quijal, co-lead author of the study, said in a press release.

The researchers emphasize that these findings show the dire need to make quick progress on climate change and adapting to a warming world.

“Our findings underscore the urgency of adopting global mitigation measures, since they will not be effective if they are only adopted in specific countries or regions,” Joan Ballester, ISGlobal researcher and last author of the study, said in a press release.

This data comes as another study warns of excess deaths in the millions as a result of temperature abnormalities around the world.

This study, published Wednesday in The Lancet Planetary Health and conducted by Monash University, found that heat-related deaths have increased around the world from 2000 to 2019. The researchers used data from around the world on temperature and mortality during this time period. The study notes that during this time period, the global temperature rose 0.26 degrees Celsius per decade.

The researchers found that 9.43 per cent of global deaths could be attributed to hot and cold temperatures. This would be 74 excess deaths per 100,000 people, most of which are caused by cold temperatures, according to the press release.

Similar to the findings of the Barcelona Institute for Global Health study, these researches found a decrease in the number of cold-related deaths (0.51 per cent) and an increase in heat-related fatalities (0.21 per cent). The Monash University study found that Eastern Europe and Sub-Saharan Africa have the highest temperature-related deaths.

The researchers found a similar relationship with temperature-related deaths, expecting them to initially drop as cold-related deaths decrease, but heat-related fatalities will eventually overtake these.

“Slightly reduce the number of temperature-related deaths, largely because of the lessening in cold-related mortality, however in the long-term climate change is expected to increase the mortality burden because hot-related mortality would be continuing to increase,” Yuming Guo, professor at Monash University and co-author of the study, said in a press release.

The researchers wanted to look at the global impact of temperature and mortality as previous studies have looked at specific countries and regions.

“This is the first study to get a global overview of mortality due to non-optimal temperature conditions between 2000 and 2019, the hottest period since the Pre-Industrial era,” he said. “Importantly, we used 43 countries’ baseline data across five continents with different climates, socioeconomic and demographic conditions and differing levels of infrastructure and public health services, so the study had a large and varied sample size, unlike previous studies.”

The study found that more than half of temperature-related fatalities occurred in Asia, particularly East and South Asia. Europe had the most excess deaths per 100,000 people due to heat. Sub-Saharan Africa had the highest death rate per 100,000 people due to exposure to cold temperatures. 

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