Research highlight

Effects of warmer temperatures on communities in England and Wales

Nature Climate Change

March 24, 2014

In the districts of London and southeast England, where residents are most vulnerable to the adverse effects of temperature, the risk of dying from cardiovascular and respiratory related diseases increased by over 10% for a 1 °C temperature increase during the summer months from 2001 to 2010. This finding, reported in a paper published online in Nature Climate Change, could help with public health risk and adaptation analysis by localizing vulnerabilities to warming temperatures and quantifying the inequalities of their effects.

The 2003 European heat-wave showed that many communities are vulnerable to the adverse effects of extreme weather, as well as the changes in local climate, due to global climate change. Although socio-demographic studies have looked at how temperature changes can affect groups of people (such as elderly versus younger people), community-level vulnerabilities based on geographical locations have not been investigated.

Majid Ezzati and colleagues conducted a national analysis of mortality due to warmer summer temperatures for all 376 districts of England and Wales using mortality statistics and environmental data with very high geographical resolution. They report that, although individuals in vulnerable districts are 10% more likely to die from cardio-respiratory causes for a 1 °C temperature increase, there is almost no effect on individuals living in more resilient communities in northern districts. The authors note that a summer that is warmer by 2 °C could result in over 1,500 additional deaths, with about half occurring in the 95 less-affluent districts of England and Wales.

doi: 10.1038/nclimate2123

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