Heat-Related Deaths To Rise 370% by Midcentury

The medical journal Lancet recently published a research paper titled “The 2023 report of the Lancet Countdown on health and climate change: the imperative for a health-centered response in a world facing irreversible harms.” It is based on work by 114 scientists, 52 organizations, and UN agencies. The results are grim. 

The paper’s most notable conclusion is that “climate change is damaging the natural and human systems on which people rely for good health.” This builds on prior analysis, and it is a reminder that the world’s leading experts expect climate change to alter the human condition throughout much of the world. This holds both for human health and the global economy.

Among the most startling parts of the research is that “If global mean temperature continues to rise to just under 2°C, annual heat-related deaths are projected to increase by 370% by midcentury, assuming no substantial progress on adaptation.” 

In specific:

Annual heat-related mortality of people older than 65 years is projected to increase by 370% above 1995–2014 levels by 2041–60 under a scenario compatible with limiting global temperature rise to 2°C, and by 433% under a scenario in which no further mitigation occurs, assuming no further adaptation.

Under the first scenario, the authors write, the loss of labor will be massive due to impossible work conditions. Phoenix is an example of this today. The city warned residents about the deadly effects of 110-degree weather. Additionally, modest to severe food insecurity may affect about 525 million more people than it does today due to rising temperatures and lack of water. This, in turn, will increase malnutrition, starvation,  and infectious diseases.

Government and private industry investments are supposed to provide solutions to these problems. The primary goals for this are investments in alternative energy and shrinking carbon-producing sectors. It is the usual prescription found in countless academic papers and research by public organizations like the UN. Policies are ineffective unless actions are taken.

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