The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has published a review of data predicting dramatic increases in heat-related deaths in the largest U.S. cities by the end of the century, indicating that efforts at resilience could save thousands of lives. “Killer Summer Heat: Projected Death Toll from Rising Temperatures in America Due to Climate Change” analyzes a study published in the Journal of the American Meteorological Society to make its data more accessible.
Based on a “business-as-usual” scenario of continued reliance on fossil fuels with no significant policy interventions, the study predicts a cumulative toll of more than 150,000 heat-related deaths by century’s end—but NRDC points out that those numbers may be conservative as they do not take into account population growth or aging baby boomers swelling the ranks of the heat-susceptible elderly.
Most states experienced record summer temperatures in 2011, but the effects can be most dramatic in cities due to the urban heat-island effect. The study looks at Excessive Heat Event (EHE) days, a combination of high temperatures and other weather factors that vary by region; non-weather factors, including green space, local preventive measures, and resident resilience, influence the health impact of EHE days.
Most cities are expected to see dramatic increases in EHE days and related mortality, but those already experienced in heat management could see better outcomes: Atlanta, GA, with an increase from 5 to 58 EHE days by century’s end, is predicted to see a slight decline in related mortality—but New York City, with a less steep increase in EHE days, is expected to see a more than 30 percent rise in related mortality. Louisville, KY, is at the highest risk for heat-related mortality by century’s end, with an expected cumulative toll of nearly 19,000 deaths.
Copyright 2012 by BuildingGreen Inc.