Death rates will rise because of global warming

July 2, 2007

Global warming will cause more deaths in summer because of higher temperatures but these will not be offset by fewer deaths in milder winters finds an analysis published online ahead of print in Occupational and Environment Medicine.

The Harvard researchers analysed city-specific weather data related to the deaths of more than 6.5 million people in 50 US cities between 1989 and 2000.

They found that during two-day cold snaps there was a 1.59% increase in deaths because of the extreme temperatures. However, during similar periods of extremely hot weather death rates went up by 5.74%. Deaths did not rise as steeply when temperature fluctuations were less extreme.

Deaths from all causes are known to rise when temperatures go up, and heart attacks and cardiac arrests are more likely when it is very cold. It was anticipated that global warming would increase deaths during hot temperatures but that this would be compensated for by fewer deaths in the winter.

But the authors conclude: ‘Our findings suggest that decreases in cold weather as a result of global warming are unlikely to result in decreases in cold-related mortality in the US. Heat-related mortality, in contrast, may increase, particularly if global warming is associated with increased variance of summer temperature.’

While all 50 US cities showed similar rises in deaths when temperatures plummeted, more deaths were seen during extreme temperature rises in cities with milder summers, less air conditioning and higher population density.

The authors suggest that this is because the use of central heating is widespread, whereas fewer people have air-conditioning in their homes.

They say: ‘Central heating, which constitutes an important adaptive mechanism against cold, is almost universal in the US and this may explain why the US population seemed fully acclimatised to cold.

‘Making air conditioning universally available may reduce heat-related mortality but would, on the other hand, have a perverse effect by enhancing global warming through carbon dioxide emissions from electricity consumption.’

Source: BMJ Specialty Journals

Explore further: Periled by climate change, Marshall Islands makes carbon pledge

Related Stories

Ocean warming leads to stronger precipitation extremes

July 13, 2015

Due to climate change, not only atmospheric, but also oceanic, temperatures are rising. A study published in the international journal Nature Geoscience led by scientists at the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research ...

Should we all escape to the country during a heatwave?

July 2, 2015

A University of Birmingham research project has highlighted the potential health impacts of heatwaves in urbanised areas. By modelling the 2003 heatwave the researchers were able to identify areas where city centres were ...

Recommended for you

Machine Translates Thoughts into Speech in Real Time

December 21, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- By implanting an electrode into the brain of a person with locked-in syndrome, scientists have demonstrated how to wirelessly transmit neural signals to a speech synthesizer. The "thought-to-speech" process ...

Quantum Theory May Explain Wishful Thinking

April 14, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Humans don’t always make the most rational decisions. As studies have shown, even when logic and reasoning point in one direction, sometimes we chose the opposite route, motivated by personal bias or simply ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.