May 25, 2012
150,000 Heat-Related Deaths Predicted By End Of The Century
Connie K. Ho for RedOrbit.com
As summer approaches, it becomes more and more difficult to stay cool. A study points out that staying cool is necessary to human survival. A recent report from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) predicts that, by the end of the century, more than 150,000 Americans could die due to heat-related causes; the estimate by the NRDC only calculates 40 cities.
According to the scientists at the NRDC, the average temperatures in North America will increase by another four to eleven degrees Fahrenheit by the end of this century. Illnesses caused or worsened by extreme heat include cardiovascular disease, heat exhaustion, heat stroke, and kidney stones. Currently, there are hundreds of deaths related to these causes. The numbers of deaths related to heat will increase as carbon pollution continues to rise along with the added number of hot days in the summer.
“Our findings indicate that rising temperatures driven by unabated climate change will increase the number of life-threatening excessive heat events, resulting in thousands of additional heat-related deaths each year, with a cumulative toll of approximately 33,000 additional heat-related deaths by midcentury in these (40) cities, and more than 150,000 additional heat-related deaths by the century´s end,” wrote the authors of the report.
Reuters reporter Deborah Zabarenko notes that the report lists the cities with the highest projected heat death tolls by 2099. The list includes Louisville (19,000 heat-related deaths), Detroit (17,900 heat-related deaths), and Cleveland (16,600 heated related test). Other top cities included Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Columbus, Denver, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Pittsburgh, Providence, St. Louis, and Washington D.C. Based on peer-reviewed data, the report states that areas that have denser populations of poor people with limited access to air conditioning will more likely have rising deaths.
Besides these various cities, a May 17 forecast by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) found that the summer months of June, July, and August will have above-normal temperatures throughout the United States. The deadliest days are the excessive heat events (EHE), found often in urban regions where there are large populations but a lesser number of places to cool down.
Past EHEs have been seen in various parts of the U.S. and can be affected by a number of factors like geography, green space, local warnings, and preventive measures. According to one of the study authors, Larry Kalkstein of the University of Miami, other places have utilized detailed warning systems; cooling centers, some that include a free bus service to reach victims; a ban on utility shut-offs; a phone number for people to contact for immediate heat-related assistance; and frequent checks of older and disabled residents. In 2006, a deadly heat wave hit California and resulted in 655 deaths, 1,620 excess hospitalizations, and 16,000 additional emergency room visits over two weeks. This resulted in almost $5.4 billion in costs.
The NRDC recommends decreasing the number of EHE by limiting the amount of carbon pollution from places like power plants and refiners. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has taken steps in this direction by placing restrictions on industrial carbon sources.