Heat waves will cause more deaths in future

Climate change will exacerbate health impact of heat waves across a range of plausible future scenarios.

Washington: Global climate change may bring on more extreme weather conditions such as heat waves, causing higher fatalities in the coming decades.

Researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, using three different climate change scenarios for the final decades of the 21st century, calculated that Chicago could experience between 166 and 2,217 excess deaths per year owing to heat waves.

"Our study looks to quantify the impact of increased heat waves on human mortality," said Roger Peng, who led the study, reports the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

"For a major US city like Chicago, the impact is likely be profound and potentially devastating," said Peng, associate professor in biostatistics, according to a Bloomberg statement.

"We would expect the impact to be less severe with mitigation efforts, including lowering CO2 emissions." Peng and colleagues developed three climate change scenarios for 2081 to 2100.

The scenarios were based on estimates from seven global climate change models and from mortality and air pollution data for the city of Chicago from 1987 to 2005. The data were limited to the warm season from May to October of each year.

From 1987 to 2005, Chicago experienced 14 heat waves, lasting an average of 9.2 days, which resulted in an estimated 53 excess deaths per year.

In the future, the researchers calculated that excess mortality attributable to heat waves is to range from 166 to 2,217 per year.

"It`s very difficult to make predictions, but given what we know now, our study shows that climate change will exacerbate the health impact of heat waves across a range of plausible future scenarios," added Peng.