Quantcast

Immediate Action Needed to Avoid Thousands of Heat-Related Deaths in U.S., New Study Says

Health + Wellness
People crossing the Brooklyn Bridge on July 20, 2017 in New York City sought to shield themselves from the sun as the temperature reached 93 degrees. Drew Angerer / Getty Images

by Jordan Davidson

Taking action to stop the mercury from rising is a matter of life and death in the U.S., according to a new study published in the journal Science Advances.



Extreme heat due to the climate crisis will cause thousands of deaths around the country unless immediate action is taken to stop global temperatures from rising over 1.5 degrees Celsius, or 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit. Already this month, San Francisco, typically cool in June, has seen triple digit temperatures, as the San Francisco Chronicle reported. And meanwhile, parts of India have seen scores of heat-related deaths from temperatures sizzling around 122 degrees Fahrenheit, according to CNN.

"The more warming you have, the more heat waves you have," said Michael Wehner, a scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, who was not involved in this study, as reported by the New York Times. "The more heat waves you have, the more people die."

By examining the effects extreme heat will cause in 15 U.S. cities, the study shows the pressing need for immediate action for nations around the world to ratchet up their efforts to contain global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

"Our results demonstrate that strengthened mitigation ambition would result in substantial benefits to public health in the United States," the study's authors concluded.

In the absence of those efforts, the outlook is bleak. If the global average temperature rises 3 degrees Celsius, or 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit, above pre-industrial levels, a heat wave could claim 6,000 lives in New York City, 2,500 in Los Angeles and 2,300 in Miami, the study says, as NBC News reports. The greatest risks are in northern cities like New York, Boston and Philadelphia.

That also means a densely-populated and vulnerable city like New York has the most to gain from meeting the 2 degree Celsius rise laid out in the Paris agreement, and even more to gain if temperatures rise only 1.5 degrees.

"New York City ... could see 1,980 1-in-30-year heat-related deaths avoided in the 2C warmer world relative to the 3C warmer world under the assumption of constant population. If the 1.5C world is realized, 2,716 of 1-in-30-year heat-related deaths could be avoided, relative to 3C," according to the paper, as Carbon Brief reported.

In the gravest scenario where temperatures rise 3 degree Celsius, Seattle, known for its cool summer temperatures, could see over 700 heat-related deaths while daily temperatures hover around 97.5 degrees Fahrenheit, the Seattle Times reports. That's just heat-related and doesn't factor in the decline in air quality that Seattle has seen thanks to nearby wildfires. Not to mention, as stark as the numbers are, the study might have underestimated the toll taken by heat waves by failing to consider non-fatal heat-related injuries, which send patients to American emergency rooms about 65,000 times each summer, said Aaron Bernstein, co-director of the Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard's T.H. Chan School of Public Health, to NBC News.

The study authors' hope that putting the numbers in context on a city-by-city basis will trigger leaders to reassess and ramp up their commitment to reducing greenhouse gases.

"You might think, what's the difference 1.5 degrees will make to human lives?" said Eunice Lo, a climate scientist at the University of Bristol and the paper's co-author, as reported by NBC News. "Actually, thousands of lives in one year can be saved in a city. Meeting the 1.5-degree target is essential and would be substantially beneficial to public health in the United States."

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Assorted plastic bottles. mali maeder / Pexels

California ended its 2019 legislative session Saturday without passing two bills that would have led the nation in tackling plastic pollution, The Mercury News reported.

Read More Show Less
People carry children on a flooded street in Almoradi, Spain on Sept. 13. JOSE JORDAN / AFP / Getty Images

Record rainfall and flooding in southeastern Spain killed six people as of Saturday, The New York Times reported.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Large food companies are following in the footsteps of fast-food restaurants such as Burger King and KFC by offering meat alternatives. Getty Images

By Elizabeth Pratt

  • Hormel, Kellogg's, and Kroger are among the large companies now planning to offer "fake meat" products at grocery stores.
  • Experts say the trend toward plant-based meats coincides with consumers' desires to eat less meat.
  • However, experts urge consumers to closely check package labels as a product isn't necessarily healthy just because it's described as plant-based.

In grocery stores and fast-food outlets around the U.S., a revolution is taking place.

Read More Show Less
Colombia rainforest. Marcel Oosterwijk / CC BY-SA 2.0

By Torsten Krause

Many of us think of the Amazon as an untouched wilderness, but people have been thriving in these diverse environments for millennia. Due to this long history, the knowledge that Indigenous and forest communities pass between generations about plants, animals and forest ecology is incredibly rich and detailed and easily dwarfs that of any expert.

Read More Show Less
picture-alliance / Newscom / R. Ben Ari

By Wesley Rahn

Plastic byproducts were found in 97 percent of blood and urine samples from 2,500 children tested between 2014 and 2017, according to a study by the German Environment Ministry and the Robert Koch Institute.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Pexels

Medically reviewed by Daniel Bubnis, MS, NASM-CPT, NASE Level II-CSS

Written by James Roland

Hot yoga has become a popular exercise in recent years. It offers many of the same benefits as traditional yoga, such as stress reduction, improved strength, and flexibility.

Read More Show Less
Lara Hata / iStock / Getty Images

By SaVanna Shoemaker, MS, RDN, LD

Rice is a staple in many people's diets. It's filling, inexpensive, and a great mild-tasting addition to flavorful dishes.

Read More Show Less
Hinterhaus Productions / DigitalVision / Getty Images

By Lindsay Campbell

From pastries to plant-based—we've got you covered.

Read More Show Less