Death rates will rise because of global warming

Jul 02, 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: Nerve cells and blood vessels in eye 'talk' to prevent disease, study finds

Related Stories

Nepal quake: Nearly 1,400 dead, Everest shaken (Update)

14 hours ago

Tens of thousands of people were spending the night in the open under a chilly and thunderous sky after a powerful earthquake devastated Nepal on Saturday, killing nearly 1,400, collapsing modern houses and ...

Ocean 'dead zones' a growing disaster for fish

Apr 09, 2015

Falling ocean oxygen levels due to rising temperatures and influence from human activities such as agrochemical use is an increasingly widespread problem. Considering that the sea floors have taken more than 1,000 years to recover from past eras of low ox ...

Drought damage leads to widespread forest death

Mar 30, 2015

The 2000-2003 drought in the American southwest triggered a widespread die-off of forests around the region. A Carnegie-led team of scientists developed a new modeling tool to explain how and where trembling ...

Recommended for you

Inaccurate reporting jeopardizing clinical trials

Apr 26, 2015

The team led by Dr Sheena Cruickshank of the Faculty of Life Sciences and Professor Andy Brass from the School of Computer Science analysed 58 papers on research into inflammatory bowel disease published between 2000 and ...

User comments : 0

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.