Rockville, Md. – We will need more effective solutions to protect people from extreme heat in the near future. That’s what a new study from Abt Associates and co-authors projects as the frequency, intensity, and duration of extreme heat increases due to climate change.
The study, published in The Lancet Planetary Health, notes that vulnerability to extreme heat has decreased over time for a variety of reasons, including increasing implementation of air conditioning and the use of public cooling centers. However, those solutions are minimized as temperatures rise. The report estimates that, to date, adaptation to both heat and cold has reduced the number of potential deaths by 97 percent as the average annual temperature across the U.S. increased by 2 degrees (Celsius). However, that figure was reduced to an 84-percent decrease when expected temperature increases of 6 degrees were calculated. In this scenario, the estimated number of additional deaths in the U.S. may total tens of thousands per year. The authors related mortality and temperature data in 208 cities grouped in nine clusters. By overlaying temperature and mortality—and using already-established relationships between heat, mortality, and climate change— they were able to extrapolate the impacts of increasing heat in cities due to climate change on human health.
Using this approach, the authors conclude that, while heat adaptation solutions since the 1970s limited heat mortality, such solutions may no longer prove effective in some regions. For example, southeastern cities have largely maximized opportunities to provide air conditioning, while northeastern cities have some additional capacity to deploy air conditioning as temperatures rise.
“Once again, the data confirm that climate change presents a clear public health risk,” said lead author Dr. Claire Lay, an associate at Abt. “Hopefully this study will energize the efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change, because the advances we’ve made in protecting people from increasing heat may not be a match for more extreme conditions.”
About Abt Associates
Abt Associates is a global consulting and research firm that uses data and bold thinking to improve the quality of people's lives. From combatting infectious disease and conducting rigorous program evaluations, to ensuring safe drinking water and promoting access to affordable housing - and more - we partner with clients and communities to tackle their most complex challenges. http://www.abtassociates.com