More than 5 million people die each year worldwide from excessively hot or cold conditions, according to a 20-year study, and heat-related deaths are on the rise.
The study involving dozens of scientists from around the world found that 9.4% of global deaths each year are attributable to exposure to heat or cold, which is equivalent to 74 additional deaths per 100,000 people.
It has prompted calls for better insulation for homes and more solar-powered air conditioning, as well as warnings that climate change will increase temperature-related deaths in the future.
The researchers analyzed meteorological and mortality data from 750 locations in 43 countries between 2000 and 2019, and found that the average daily temperature in these locations increased by 0.26 ° C per decade.
The study found that more people had died of cold than heat during the two-decade period. But heat-related deaths were increasing, while cold-related deaths were declining.
Professor Yuming Guo of Monash University, one of the lead researchers on the study, said that this trend would continue due to climate change and that overall death rates could increase.
“In the future, cold-related mortality should continue to decline, but because heat-related mortality will continue to increase, that means there will be a breaking point,” Guo said.
He said that in Europe there had already been a general increase in the death rate associated with temperatures.
“If we don’t take any action to mitigate climate change … there will be more deaths.”
The study, published in the journal Lancet planetary health, took into account the different optimal temperatures for people living in different regions.
“Populations have the ability to adapt to the local climate,” Guo said.
The highest heat-related excess mortality rate was recorded in Eastern Europe, while sub-Saharan Africa had the highest cold-temperature-related mortality rate.
Professor Adrian Barnett of Queensland University of Technology, who was not involved in the study, said that heart attacks, cardiac arrests and strokes increase in both extremely cold and hot conditions.
“People particularly at risk are those with some kind of pre-existing heart and lung condition,” he said.
Populations are well adapted to the climates where they live, in terms of their housing, clothing and behavior, Barnett said. “Hot countries have fewer heat deaths, but that is likely to change.”
Barnett said mitigation strategies such as better home insulation and off-grid solar-powered air conditioning should be considered, which would work even during power outages.
The findings come as a separate analysis by the Global Alliance for Climate and Health Australia ranked last out of 66 countries in efforts to include human health concerns in its climate commitments.
Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, Norway and Iceland received a score of zero out of 15 on the report card as countries that did not even mention human health in their nationally determined contributions.
The organization also examined what countries were doing to strengthen their health systems in the face of the burdens caused by the climate crisis, how much additional funding these policies received, and the extent to which countries recognized that achieving net zero emissions would have collateral benefits for human health. .
The European Union was also close to the bottom, scoring one out of 15, while the US and the UK received scores of 6 and 7 respectively. Costa Rica ranked highest, with 13 points out of 15.
In May, more than 60 health groups, including the Australian Medical Association and Hesta Super Fund, called on the Morrison government to prioritize health in Australia’s climate goals under the Paris agreement.
“This scorecard shows that Australia is again at the bottom of the group when it comes to taking the health effects of climate change seriously,” said Fiona Armstrong, executive director of the Australian Health and Climate Alliance.
“The prime minister must act to reduce emissions and prioritize health in our international climate commitments before COP26 to protect our health.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism