Limiting global warming could prevent thousands of heat-related deaths
If countries commit to the Paris Climate Agreement’s goal of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, it could prevent thousands of annual heat-related deaths a new study has found.
Researchers from the University of Bristol studied the potential impacts of limiting warming under the Paris Accord and focused on mortality rather than temperatures or emissions.
“We are no longer counting the impact of climate change in terms of degrees of global warming, but rather in terms of number of lives lost,” said Dann Mitchell, a co-lead author of the study which was published in the journal Science Advances.
As the next round of climate pledges for the Paris Climate Agreement are due in 2020, the study emphasizes the importance of limiting emissions and combating warming climate trends.
Currently, nearly every country on Earth has pledged to uphold the Paris Climate Agreement which aims to prevent global temperature rise to below two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, but recent studies have shown that limiting warming to 1.5 degrees would go a long way in preventing catastrophic sea level rise and extreme weather events.
In this study, the researchers reviewed temperature and mortality data as well as climate projections for 15 cities in the US to see how different climate mitigation strategies would impact heat-related deaths.
“Our study brings together a wide range of physical and social complexities to show just how human lives could be impacted if we do not cut carbon emissions,” said Mitchell. “Considering the US citizens that will be adversely affected by increasing global temperatures, we strongly encourage them to hold their politicians to account.”
If warming is limited to 2 degrees Celsius, it could prevent 70 to 1,980 deaths per year, per city. But if warming is limited to 1.5 degrees Celsius, it could prevent 110 to 2,720 deaths, depending on the city.
“If global temperature rise is reduced to 1.5°C from where we are headed, the cities’ exposure to extreme heat would decrease and up to thousands of annual heat-related deaths could be avoided per city,” said Dr. Eunice Lo, the lead author of the study. “Strengthened climate actions are needed as they would substantially benefit public health in the United States.”
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