Temperatures rising just a few degrees could lead to thousands of early deaths in the US, a new study suggests.
Researchers found that if global temperatures rose by 3.5 Fahrenheit (F), or 2 Celsius (C), it could result in 2,100 fatal injuries such as from transportation accidents, drownings and assaults.
The team – from Imperial College London, Columbia University and Harvard University – says that warmer temperatures lead to more swimming, driving and drinking alcohol, which lead to an increased risk of fatal accidents.
A new study led by Columbia University in New York has found that rising global temperatures from climate change could lead to an additional 2,100 deaths per year, mostly among young men (file image)
For the study, published in the journal Nature Medicine, the team analyzed data from the National Center for Health Statistics to calculate the number of deaths from injuries from 1980 to 2017.
It showed that 5.9 million American died from injuries over the 38-year study period, mostly from transport accidents, drownings, falls, assault and suicide.
The team then looked at unusual temperature changes in every month in every county in the mainland US.
Researchers then used a statistical model to see how many additional deaths would occur if global temperatures rose by 2.7F (1.5C) or 3.5F (2C).
These numbers were chosen because countries in the Paris Agreement are committed limiting the increase in temperatures to 2.7F (1.5C).
Since the mid-19th century, Earth’s surface temperature has risen by approximately 2F (1C), according to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
The US will be withdrawing from the agreement in November 2020, shortly before the end of President Donald Trump’s term.
Results showed that if temperatures rose by 2.7F (1.5C), there would 1,600 excess deaths per year- more than 1,200 would be in young men dying from transport accidents and drowning.
This is because warmer temperatures meaning more people swimming and more people driving on the roads.
Past research has also found that when more energy is burned, there is higher volume on the road, which leads to more road deaths.
Risks were also seen in deaths from suicide and assault due to warmer temperatures, but the changes in these risks were less significant.
If global temperatures rose by 3.5F (2C), researchers calculated there would be as many as 2,100 additional deaths annually from the same causes.
‘These predictions suggest we should expect to see more deaths from transport accidents, suicides, drownings and violence as temperatures rise,’ said senior author Dr Majid Ezzati of the School of Public Health at Imperial College London.
‘These new results show how much climate change can affect young people. We need to respond to this threat with better preparedness in terms of emergency services, social support and health warnings.’
The team says it’s not clear why there are increases in deaths from rising global temperatures triggered by climate change.
One reason could be that, in warmer weather, more people spend time outdoors, which could lead to confrontations – and thus, deaths from violence.
Another could be that agitation from hot weather could lead to drinking more alcohol, and that combination could cause a rise in assault.
As for the rise in suicides, previous studies have found that warmer temperatures are linked to higher levels of mental distress, particularly among young adults.
‘Our work highlights how deaths from injuries…currently rise with warm temperature, and could also worsen by rising temperatures resulting from climate change, unless countered by social and health system infrastructure that mitigate these impacts,’ said lead author Dr Robbie Parks, a postdoctoral research scientist at Columbia University.