John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
Humanity should brace itself for the searing and deadly weather of the future, say British scientists.
The United Kingdom is not known for its tropical weather. But by the middle of the century, the region will be so sweltering that hot-weather fatalities could more than double, say British scientists.
The predicted brew of killer weather will be caused by climate change and population growth, according to researchers from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and Public Health England, who today released their findings in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health. From a 2000 baseline, they calculate that England and Wales could see a 257 percent spike in heat deaths by the 2050s. London and the Midlands bear the brunt of the increased death risk, they say, as does anybody past the age of 75.
The scientists divined this distress call from the future by examining the British government's meteorological data, which indicate a tripling of hot-weather days by the mid-2080s. They correlated this ballooning of warmth with past death rates and the region's population numbers by that same decade – expected to be around 89 million, including a large chunk of people older than 85. Their conclusion: Whereas roughly 2,000 individuals passed away due to heat in the 2000s, the death toll could leap to 7,040 by the 2050s and a walloping 12,538 in the '80s.
On a slightly more positive note, they figure that fatalities caused by cold weather will creep down slightly, from 41,408 in the 2000s to 40,397 in the 2050s. Here are their hot-and-cold predictions side by side:
The researchers stress that the influx of sweaty weather will disproportionately hammer the elderly, not a pleasant prediction given how many older people live by themselves these days. Such hermetic existences were a "contributory factor to the high death toll in France in the 2003 heatwave," they say. For those who don't remember that catastrophe, a months-long swell of hot weather that soared above 104 degrees killed more than 14,000 French citizens, most of them elderly people.
Top image: A dead sunflower in a field near Toulouse during the deadly 2003 French heat wave. (Jean Philippe Arles / Reuters)