More than 20,000 people died in summer heat waves in Western Europe, figures show

More than 20,000 people have died across western Europe in this summer’s heatwaves, at temperatures that would have been virtually impossible without the deteriorating climate, figures show.

Analysis of excess deaths, the difference between the number of deaths that have occurred and those expected based on historical trends, reveals the threats posed by climate change-induced global warming, scientists have said.

During summer heatwaves, temperatures exceeded 40°C (104°F) in London, southwestern regions of France reached 42°C and Seville and Cordoba in Spain set records of 44°C Analysis by the World Weather Attribution group of scientists found that such high temperatures would have been “virtually impossible” without the climate crisis.

In England and Wales, 3,271 excess deaths were recorded between June 1 and September 7, according to the Office for National Statistics – 6.2% more than the five-year average.

The analysis does not specifically estimate heat-related deaths, but the number of deaths was on average higher for days with a heat spell than for days without a heat spell. Deaths from Covid-19 were excluded.

In France, an additional 10,420 deaths were reported during the summer months, according to data released by Santé Publique France, the government health agency.

One in four of those deaths, or 2,816, occurred during one of the three intense heat waves that hit the country. Excess deaths were 20% higher in areas where extreme temperature red alerts had been issued.

In Spain, the state-backed Carlos III Health Institute estimates that there were 4,655 heat-attributable deaths between June and August.

The Robert Koch Institute, Germany’s government health agency, estimates that 4,500 people died in the country during the summer months, particularly due to extreme temperatures.

Dr Friederike Otto, Senior Lecturer in Climate Science at the Grantham Institute for Climate Change and the Environment at Imperial College London, said: “Heat waves are one of the greatest threats posed by climate change. High temperatures are responsible for thousands of deaths worldwide each year, many of which go unreported.

“Despite this overwhelming evidence, there is still little public awareness of the dangers extreme temperatures pose to human health.”

The summer of 2022 was the hottest on record, according to Europe’s Copernicus climate change service.

Dr Eunice Lo, a climate change and health researcher at the University of Bristol, said: ‘Heat waves are becoming more frequent and intense as the globe heats up, so we can expect more and hotter heat waves in the future.

“Scientists have linked many past heat waves to human-induced climate change. This means that the observed heat waves have been made more likely to occur or more intense due to human emissions of greenhouse gases. .

Global warming is caused by the burning of fossil fuels, the destruction of forests and other human activities. The International Energy Agency said last year that no new gas, oil or coal development could take place from this year if the world were to limit global warming to 1.5°C. .

Lo said there was also a need for society to adapt to the extreme heat. “We… have to adapt to the long-term heat. This includes designing homes, schools, and hospitals that have good ventilation and prevent overheating, increasing green spaces and parks in cities, and making heat warnings available to everyone.

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