Deaths to soar as climate heats warns research

The UK has been warned that the number of deaths linked to extreme temperatures will leap 42% as the world buckles under global warming.

A report, by researchers from UCL and the University of Reading, found that the number of deaths due to temperature will rise significantly when global warming increases the world’s temperature by 2°C.

Temperature-related mortality – where a death is directly linked to climate temperature – in England and Wales during the hottest days of the year will increase by 42% under a warming scenario of 2°C from pre-industrial levels.

The report said this will mean an increase from present-day levels of around 117 deaths per day, averaged over the 10 hottest days of the year, to around 166 deaths per day.

Lead author Dr Katty Huang of UCL Civil, Environmental & Geomatic Engineering said: “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. 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 can cope.”

“At current global warming levels of around 1.21°C we see a slight decrease in temperature-related mortality in winter and a minimal net effect in summer, meaning that overall, at this level of warming we see a slight decrease in temperature-related mortality rate,” said researchers.

In the paper the team examined the impact of climate change on temperature-related mortality rates in England and Wales, focusing on the risk from heat in summer and cold in winter. They found that as the global mean temperature increases, temperature-related mortality in summer will increase at a much faster, non-linear rate.

The rate of increase particularly speeds up at 2°C of warming, with a much higher risk appearing beyond 2.5°C, according to the report. The researchers say that 3°C warming could lead to a 75% increase in mortality risk during heatwaves.

When plotted on a graph, the relationship between temperature and mortality is roughly u-

In England and Wales, temperature is associated with around 9% of total population mortality, meaning that 9% of all deaths during 2021 could be associated with the temperature. Most of those deaths are related to the side effects of cold weather.

Project lead Professor Andrew Charlton-Perez, University of Reading, said: “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. 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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