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Heatwaves to become more deadly and increase global inequality

Source(s):  Environmental Defense Fund (EDF)

By Monika Barcikowska / Bio / Published: January 24, 2019

A new study shows that heatwaves will worsen in the future and that the most vulnerable populations will be hit the hardest

Human-caused climate change has already increased the frequency and severity of heatwaves across the globe, and new research shows that heatwaves will get even worse as the planet warms further.

Scientists have found that climate change played a major role in recent heatwaves: the chance of extreme heat at the levels seen in northern Europe in 2018 has doubled; the “Lucifer” heatwave in Europe’s Mediterranean region during summer of 2017 is four times more likely to occur; and the scorching 2016-2017 summer in New South Wales, Australia, was made at least 50 times more likely.

The new study, published on January 11th, 2019 in Nature Communications, shows the growing threat of heatwaves in a warming world, especially for less developed nations. In fact, the researchers found that less developed countries will likely be more affected by heatwaves in a 1.5°C (2.7°F) warmer world than developed countries will be in a 2°C (3.6°F) warmer world.

Why do we care about heatwaves?

Extreme heat is now responsible for more deaths in U.S. cities than all other weather events combined (including hurricanes, lightning, tornadoes, floods and earthquakes). Heat-related health problems, such as dehydration, heat exhaustion and heat strokes, pose a particular threat for the elderly and workers directly exposed to the heatwave for long periods of time.

The 1995 Chicago heatwave killed more than 700 people. The 2003 European heatwave caused more than 30,000 deaths. The 2010 heat wave in Russia, along with wildfire smoke, contributed to more than 50,000 deaths.

Moreover, prolonged searing weather is often associated with droughts that can have a devastating effect on crops and water resources, and cause an increased risk of wildfires.

This news is related to one of the 12 themes of the global conference on health and climate change of the international movement of the Red Cross and Red Crescent.

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