Heatwaves in Europe ‘may kill 150000 each year’

Experts predict a series of weather-related disasters if there is no reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.


:: Lucifer heatwave a ‘major’ threat to Europe

Between 1981 and 2010, there were, on average, 3,000 people killed annually by weather-related events.

But this could soar to 152,000 annually between 2071 and 2100, according to a study in the Lancet Planetary Health journal.

Climate change is responsible for 90% of the increased risk, while population growth, migration and urbanisation make up the other 10%.


preview image

Video:
What is the Paris climate change deal?

Lead scientist Dr Giovanni Forzieri, from the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre in Italy, said: “Unless global warming is curbed as a matter of urgency and appropriate measures are taken, about 350 million Europeans could be exposed to harmful climate extremes on an annual basis by the end of the century.”

The study looked at the likely impact of the most dangerous weather-related events in the 28 European Union countries.

These were heatwaves, cold snaps, wildfires, droughts, wind storms, as well as river and coastal floods.

A worker operates a forklift next to a street thermometer showing 47 degrees Celsius in Podgorica, Montenegro, August 4, 2017
Image:
Montenegro is one of the countries that has seen high temperatures recently

At the beginning of the century, around one person in every 20 was exposed to these disasters.

By the end of the century, the researchers said this could increase to two out of every three people.

:: Trump’s US notifies UN of climate deal pull-out

Heatwaves were set to be the most deadly weather event, accounting for 99% of future weather-related deaths.

The death toll is expected to rise from 2,700 at the start of the century to 151,500 by its end.

A man cools with a bucket of water next to Plaza de Espana in Sevilla during a heat wave, on July 13, 2017
Image:
A man cools with a bucket of water in Seville during a heat wave in July

Southern Europe, currently experiencing a heatwave with temperatures in the high 40s, is most at risk.

The study predicts this region could see 700 deaths per million people due to extreme weather events by the end of the century.

Northern countries, including the UK, appear a bit safer, with three weather-related deaths for every million people predicted.

A firefighting helicopter drops water to extinguish a forest fire in Vila Velha de Rodao, near Castelo Branco, Portugal, July 27, 2017
Image:
Forest fires, like this one in Portugal, could become more common with climate change

The researchers got these numbers by looking at disaster records from 1981 to 2010 and estimating how vulnerable people in each country were to each of the seven types of weather-related events.

They combined this with climate change predictions and estimates of population trends and migration patterns.

Dr Forzieri said: “The substantial projected rise in risk of weather-related hazards to human beings due to global warming, population growth, and urbanisation highlights the need for stringent climate mitigation policies and adaptation and risk reduction measures to minimise the future effect of weather-related extremes on human lives.”

Members of the UME (Emergency Military Unit) fight a wildfire in Vilardevos, northwestern Spain, on August 4, 2017
Image:
A firefighter in Vilardevos, northwestern Spain, where wildfires have affected swathes of land

Paul Wilkinson, professor of environmental epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said: “While the analysis only considered extreme events, and assumed no reduction in human vulnerability over time from adaptation, it is yet another reminder of the exposures to extreme weather and possible human impacts that might occur if emissions of greenhouse gases continue unabated.

“It adds further weight to the powerful argument for accelerating mitigation actions to protect population health.”


Do you have an unusual story to tell? E-mail stories@tutuz.com