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Global Warming Deaths - Projections



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Heat is the leading weather-related killer, ending more lives than do hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, and lightning combined. (1)

— Janet Pelley
Chemical and Engineering News
January 28, 2011

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2020 | Global Warming Deaths

2020.  By 2020 excess U.S. annual summer deaths due to extreme heat events projected to reach 1,981 to 4,100.  “In a study on the impact of future climate scenarios on mortality in 44 cities [SMSAs], Kalkstein and Greene estimate that by 2020, under a business-as-usual emissions scenario, excess annual summer deaths will increase from 1840 to 1981 – 4100 (depending on the GCM used), and by 2050 up to 3190 – 4748 excess deaths will occur each summer.” (George Luber, MA, PhD, Michael McGeehin, PhD, MSPH, “Climate Change and Extreme Heat Events,” American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 2008;35(5):429–435, November 2008, p. 431 citing findings in Laurence S. Kalkstein and J. Scott Greene, “An evaluation of climate/mortality relationships in large U.S. cities and the possible impacts of a climate change,” Environmental Health Perspectives, Volume 105, No. 1, January 1997, Table 4 and pp. 90-91)

2020.  Heat-related deaths projected to double in some areas.  “Heating of the atmosphere can influence health through several routes. Most directly, it can generate more, stronger and hotter heat waves, which will become especially treacherous if the evenings fail to bring cooling relief. Unfortunately, a lack of nighttime cooling seems to be in the cards; the atmosphere is heating unevenly and is showing the biggest rises at night, in winter and at latitudes higher than about 50 degrees. In some places, the number of deaths related to heat waves is projected to double by 2020. Prolonged heat can, moreover, enhance production of smog and the dispersal of allergens. Both effects have been linked to respiratory symptoms.”  Climate change mortality. (Paul R. Epstein, “Is Global Warming Harmful to Health?,” Scientific American, August, 2000)

2010 – 2019.  Stanford computer models project a dramatic spike in extreme seasonal temperatures during the period 2010 - 2019.  “The Stanford team also forecast a dramatic spike in extreme seasonal temperatures during the current decade [2010 – 2019]. Temperatures equaling the hottest season on record from 1951 to 1999 could occur four times between now [2010] and 2019 over much of the U.S., according to the researchers.  The 2020s and 2030s could be even hotter, particularly in the American West.” (Mark Shwartz, communications manager, Woods Institute for the Environment at Stanford University, “Heat waves and extremely high temperatures could be commonplace in the U.S. by 2039, Stanford study finds,” Stanford Report, July 8, 2010 citing findings in Diffenbaugh, N., and M. Ashfaq. Intensification of hot extremes in the United States. Geophys. Res. Lett., (in press) DOI: 10.1029/2010GL043888, August 6, 2010)

See additional forecasts of global warming heat waves.

 2050 | Global Warming Deaths

2050.  By 2050 excess U.S. annual summer deaths due to extreme heat events projected to reach up to 3,190 to 4,748.  “In a study on the impact of future climate scenarios on mortality in 44 cities [SMSAs], Kalkstein and Greene estimate that by [2050], under a business-as-usual emissions scenario . . . up to 3190 – 4748 excess deaths will occur each summer (depending on the GCM used).” Global warming deaths. (George Luber, MA, PhD, Michael McGeehin, PhD, MSPH, “Climate Change and Extreme Heat Events,” American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 2008;35(5):429–435, November 2008, p. 431 citing findings in Laurence S. Kalkstein and J. Scott Greene, “An evaluation of climate/mortality relationships in large U.S. cities and the possible impacts of a climate change,” Environmental Health Perspectives, Volume 105, No. 1, January 1997, Table 4 and pp. 90-91)

2050.  Deaths from extreme heat or cold could triple in major U.S. cities from 1993 to 2050.  “Scientists and public health officials said they are particularly worried about an increase in summer nighttime temperatures because people tend to recover from excessive heat exposure at night.  Joel D. Scheraga, national program director for the U.S. Global Change Research Program of the Environmental Protection Agency, has delivered presentations indicating that with increasing temperatures and population growth, deaths from extreme heat or cold could as much as triple in major American cities from 1993 to 2050.  Scheraga said the EPA chart was not a clear prediction, because federal, state and local officials are working to better protect citizens from the dangers of extreme heat and cold.  Nearly 100,000 people have downloaded the EPA's "Excessive Heat Events Guidebook" since it was posted online six weeks ago.  ‘These are avoidable deaths. There's an opportunity to save lives,’ Scheraga said. 

‘With climate change, with warming and an intense hydrological cycle, the water cycle, we do in fact expect more extremes, more flooding and more heat waves.’  Since mid-July, 179 Americans, most of them Californians, have died in the current heat wave; more than 52,000 died during the 2003 episode in Europe, where air conditioning is less common.” (Juliet Eilperin, Washington Post Staff Writer, “More Frequent Heat Waves Linked to Global Warming - U.S. and European Researchers Call Long Hot Spells Likely,” The Washington Post, August 4, 2006)

2050.  Heat wave deaths in Chicago could more than double. “In fact, scientists say global warming's influence is already visible and it could get worse within decades if no action is taken. The average number of heat-wave deaths in Chicago could more than double by 2050, and killer heat waves in Europe could also increase by that time, experts say.” (“Global Warming A Tough Sell For The Human Psyche,” The Associated Press, New York, December 17, 2009)  

2050 (Mid-century).  By mid-century, air quality worsened by climate change in Seattle, Washington's King County area is projected to cause 132 additional summer deaths annually.  “Climate change in Washington will likely lead to significantly more heat- and air pollution-related deaths throughout this century.  By mid-century, King County [Seattle area] will likely experience 132 additional deaths between May and September annually due to worsened air quality caused by climate change.”  (Littell, J.S., M. McGuire Elsner, L.C. Whitely Binder, and A.K. Snover (eds), The Washington Climate Change Impacts Assessment: Evaluating Washington's Future in a Changing Climate, A report by The Climate Impacts Group, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, June 2009, p. 2)

2090 | Global Warming Deaths

2090s.  Annual heat-related deaths in Los Angeles projected to increase by 2 – 7 times 1990 levels.  “A study of climate change impacts in California projects that, by the 2090s, annual heat-related deaths in Los Angeles would increase by two to three times under a lower [greenhouse gas] emissions scenario and by five to seven times under a higher emissions scenario, compared to a 1990s baseline of about 165 deaths [330 to 1,155 deaths]. These estimates assume that people will have become somewhat more accustomed to higher temperatures. Without such acclimatization, these estimates are projected to be about 20 to 25 percent higher.”  (Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States, Thomas R. Karl, Jerry M. Melillo, and Thomas C. Peterson, (eds.). U.S. Global Change Research Program, Cambridge University Press, 2009, p. 91 citing findings in Hayhoe, K., D. Cayan, C.B. Field, P.C. Frumhoff, E.P. Maurer, N.L. Miller, S.C. Moser, S.H. Schneider, K.N. Cahill, E.E. Cleland, L. Dale, R. Drapek, R.M. Hanemann, L.S. Kalkstein, J. Lenihan, C.K. Lunch, R.P. Neilson, Scott C. Sheridan, and J.H. Verville, 2004: Emissions pathways, climate change, and impacts on California. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 101(34), 12422-12427)  

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Even in wealthy countries with very high air conditioning use, heat is still one of the greatest weather-related causes of mortality.  The ever-increasing urban population will greatly increase the number of people exposed to this risk. 

Those without respite from the heat, and those who are most vulnerable physiologically —  including the elderly or people of ill health — could be most heavily affected by the extra heat. (2)

— Mark McCarthy, climate scientist
Met Office, United Kingdom
On the combination of global
warming and the urban heat island effect

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These are avoidable deaths. There's an opportunity to save lives. (3)

— Joel D. Scheraga
Senior Climate Adaptation Advisor,
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Commenting on heat and cold-related deaths
resulting from climate change

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2100.  As many as 1400 heat-related deaths projected for Los Angeles by 2100.  “A fresh look at California's climate future suggests some profound changes may be coming as global warming takes hold, including extended heat waves in Los Angeles, disrupted ecosystems in the mountains and chaos in California's water-supply system. [In their study, Emissions pathways, climate change, and impacts on California, which was published online Monday, August 16, 2004] in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers] adapted two of the latest computer models [Parallel Climate Model and Hadley Centre Climate Model, version 3, respectively] of global climate change to determine how California might be affected under two different scenarios -- one optimistic [B1] and one pessimistic [A1fi] -- for emissions of heat- trapping greenhouse gases

. . .Daily life in Los Angeles already [2004] includes about a dozen ‘heat-wave days’ a year, defined as three or more days in a row when temperatures climb above 90 degrees. Under the worst-case heating outlook, there would be as many as 95 such days by the end of the century [2100], producing about 1,400 more heat-related deaths.”  (Carl T. Hall, Chronicle Science Writer, “California - Global warming clouds the future - But experts say it's not too late to cut harmful emissions,” San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco, California, August 17, 2004 citing findings in (Katherine Hayhoe et al, Emissions pathways, climate change, and impacts on California, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences - PNAS, August 24, 2004, Vol. 101 No. 34, pp. 12422–12427) 

 

(1) Janet Pelley, “Heat-Related Deaths Could Jump,” Chemical and Engineering News, January 28, 2011 reporting findings in A. Scott Voorhees*, Neal Fann, Charles Fulcher, Patrick Dolwick, Bryan Hubbell, Britta Bierwagen, and Philip Morefield, “Climate Change-Related Temperature Impacts on Warm Season Heat Mortality: A Proof-of-Concept Methodology Using BenMAP,” United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA), 109 TW Alexander Drive, Research Triangle Park, North Carolina 27711, United States, Environ. Sci. Technol., 2011, DOI: 10.1021/es102820y, 45 (4), American Chemical Society, January 19, 2011, pp 1450–1457  See companion PowerPoint presentation, Climate Change-Related Temperature Impacts on Warm Season Heat-Mortality.
(2) Mark McCarthy, climate scientist at the United Kingdom Met Office quoted in Mason Inman, “City dwellers to face more frequent hot summer nights,” GeoHazards, American Geophysical Union, Washington, DC, May 28, 2010 citing findings from McCarthy, M. P., M. J. Best, and R. A. Betts (2010), Climate change in cities due to global warming and urban effects, Geophysical Research Letters, 37, L09705, doi:10.1029/2010GL042845, May 8, 2010
(3) Joel D. Scheraga, national program director for the U.S. Global Change Research Program of the Environmental Protection Agency quoted in Juliet Eilperin, Washington Post Staff Writer, “More Frequent Heat Waves Linked to Global Warming - U.S. and European Researchers Call Long Hot Spells Likely,” The Washington Post, August 4, 2006.  See also Excessive Heat Events Guidebook.

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Global Warming Deaths