A new study released Sunday in the journal Nature Climate Change found that in the 2020s, heat-related mortality may rise by up to 20%. In the very worst cases, by the 2080s, that number might rise to 90%.
The study is the most thorough examination to date of the impact global warming will have on monthly temperature–related mortality in large cities. This is a pressing issue as more and more people are living in urban areas.
The average global surface temperatures are rising in direct relation to rising greenhouse gas emissions. This has, in turn, caused deadly, sometimes catastrophic, heat events. Cold weather extremes are also on the decrease.
The study refutes the commonly held belief that the deaths caused by heat are offset by the decreased number of deaths due to cold weather extremes.
Critics of the study note that it does not take into account adaptation measures like air conditioning or changes in humidity and air quality. This would likely lower mortality rates.
The study comes at an important time, just as large metropolitan areas like New York and Chicago head into the sometimes brutally hot summer months.
Being cognizant of heat–related dangers and possible rise in mortality rates allows law enforcement to monitor the situation closely and make sure susceptible groups like children and the elderly are kept out of harm’s way.