Extreme weather to kill 152,000 Europeans a year by 2100: study
Published Saturday, August 5, 2017 12:31PM EDT
With much of Europe engulfed in a heat wave so intense it’s been dubbed "Lucifer," a new report says the death toll from weather disasters on the continent could rise 50-fold by the end of this century.
Extreme weather could kill 152,000 people a year by 2100 if nothing is done to curb climate change, the scientists say.
The report, published in The Lancet Planetary Health journal, comes from researchers from the Joint Research Centre – the science and knowledge service of the European Commission.
They conclude that while one in every 20 Europeans was exposed to weather disasters at the beginning of this century, that could increase to two out of every three people by 2100, if extreme weather events are not controlled.
“Climate change is one of the biggest global threats to human health of the 21st century,” the team writes.
The recent heatwaves in Spain that have seen record-breaking temperatures in the 40-degree Celsius range are an example of potential future extreme weather conditions to come, the authors warn.
They predict events of this intensity could occur every year by the end of the century.
For the study, researchers combined information on weather disasters that occurred on the continent from 1981 to 2010, and then looked at hazard and demographic projections until 2100.
They focused on weather disasters that would have the greatest impacts: heatwaves, cold snaps, wildfires, droughts, river and coastal floods, and windstorms.
They predict that heat waves would be the most lethal weather-related disaster.
The predictions are based on the assumption that greenhouse gas emissions will not be reduced over the next few decades, and there will be no improvement in efforts to reduce the impact of extreme weather events.
They conclude that southern Europe will be hardest hit, particularly Spain and Italy. In those areas, weather extremes will become the greatest environmental risk for people, causing more premature deaths than air pollution.
Global warming will be the cause of 90 per cent of all the future weather-related deaths in Europe. The other 10 per cent will be due to simple population growth, as well as migration into weather-disaster-prone areas.
The elderly and those with chronic diseases are expected to be among most affected, since they have the most problems with regulated their body temperatures.
The poor will also be disproportionately impacted, according to the study, in large part because they have less access to air conditioning or flood-proofing of their homes.