Research highlight

Climate change: Heat-related human mortality from anthropogenic climate change assessed

Nature Climate Change

June 1, 2021

A total of 37% of global heat-related human deaths can be attributed to anthropogenic climate change, according to a paper published in Nature Climate Change. Such findings reveal the pressing need to implement more ambitious mitigation and adaptation strategies to reduce the repercussions of climate change on public health.

Over the past two centuries, global temperatures have risen by an average of 1°C as a result of anthropogenic climate change, with some areas experiencing more warming than others. These rising temperatures — along with the increasing frequency and severity of heatwaves — have consequences for human health.

Using data from 732 locations in 43 countries, Ana Vicedo-Cabrera, Antonio Gasparrini and colleagues investigated the impact that anthropogenic climate change has had on human mortality due to heat over the past three decades (1991–2018). Epidemiological methods and climate models reveal that, on average, 37% of global heat-related deaths are attributable to anthropogenic warming. The authors found that increased mortality due to climate change since the preindustrial period is detectable on every inhabited continent. They also noted a larger percentage of deaths due to climate change in warmer countries in southern Europe, and southern and western Asia.

This study did not include data from several key regions — such as parts of Africa and South Asia — and in some countries data were only available for a few cities. In an associated News & Views article, Dann Mitchell remarks that understanding regional differences will be important, as the regions of extremely high population growth, are the regions that we don’t have data for.

doi: 10.1038/s41558-021-01058-x

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