Present-day climate change consists of global warming and its influences on different weather patterns. The emanation of greenhouse gases —mostly methane and carbon dioxide— is the leading cause of these changes. The World Health Organization has identified climate change as the supreme menace to universal health in the 21st century. A heat wave refers to an age of excessively hot climate, which may occur along with increased humidity, particularly in nations with an oceanic climate. Heat waves that formerly occurred one in ten possibilities in a particular year during the pre-industrial climate, will now be thrice more likely to occur on average. From 1998 to 2017, more than 166,000 individuals died because of heat waves. Also, more than 70,000 people died during the 2003 heatwave in Europe. A recent article published in Communications Earth & Environment has offered insights into the probabilistic estimates of augmented heat stress, mediated by climate change.
Lucas Vargas Zeppetello and collaborators generated probabilistic predictions of CO2 releases towards the end of this century. They combined a statistical model created in numerous levels, called Bayesian hierarchical model, of population variation, the emission rate of CO2 relative to one unit of gross domestic product, and the association between financial development and carbon releases. They mentioned that CO2 releases from human activities have the potential to drive worldwide upsurges in exposure to dangerous temperatures in upcoming years, even if we meet the 2˚C limit of the Paris Agreement.
The article shows the innumerable fatal heat waves that have affected major metropolises in the previous decade. The failure to curtail greenhouse gas releases makes the impact of climate change on heat waves impend the habitability of the land surface. Life-threatening heat results in heat exhaustion, heat cramps, and chronic diseases, thereby posing a risk to public health.
Lucas and collaborators projected that the global mean temperature variation will reach 2˚C by 2050. Moreover, numerous people living in tropical areas, such as sub-Saharan Africa and India, will be likely exposed to dangerous heat levels during the majority of days in each year by 2100. At present, fatal heat waves are occasional in the mid-latitudes (US states like Oregon and northern California, North Carolina, Colorado, Ohio, Iowa, and Virginia; Poland and northern Germany; southern regions of the United Kingdom). However, they can get exposed to deadly heat waves every year.
Lucas projected a 16-fold growth in the incidence of hazardous heat waves in Chicago. They also suggested that the failure to implement adaptation measures may result in enormous increases in the occurrence of heat-related diseases, predominantly in outdoor workers, aged people, and those with lesser earnings, necessitating more motivated targets to decrease CO2 releases.
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- Zeppetello, L.R,. Raftery, A.E,. & Battisti, D.S,. (2022). Probabilistic projections of increased heat stress driven by climate change. Communications earth & environment. https://doi.org/10.1038/s43247-022-00524-4