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How climate change could change the way we die
A new study predicts more deaths from injuries in a warmer world.
By Sarah DeWeerdt
January 14, 2020
Global warming of 1.5 °C could result in an additional 1,603 deaths from injuries each year in the United States, an international team of researchers reported yesterday in the journal Nature Medicine. They calculated the death toll from 2 °C of warming at 2,135 excess injury-related deaths yearly.
1,603? Are they sure it’s not 1,602 or 1,604?
The researchers mined 38 years’ worth of US government data on weather conditions and deaths from injuries in the United States (excluding Alaska and Hawaii). They calculated the average temperature in each month of the year for each state from 1980 to 2017. They identified months when the temperature was warmer than average in a given state, and compared the death rate from injuries during these months to the background rate of injury deaths.
This enabled them to calculate how mortality from injuries might change if average temperatures in all states increase year-round by 1.5 or 2 °C, the benchmarks set out in the Paris Agreement.
The number of excess deaths for 2 °C of warming, 2,135, represents 1% of all deaths from injuries in 2017. California, Texas, and Florida are likely to have the largest number of these increased deaths.
“These new results show how much climate change can affect young people,” study leader Majid Ezzati of Imperial College London said in a statement. “We need to respond to this threat with better preparedness in terms of emergency services, social support and health warnings.”
For example, officials could design public health messages specifically targeted at young men warning of the risks from traffic accidents and drowning, and implement additional blood alcohol level checkpoints on roads during hot weather.
Source: Parks R.M. et al. “Anomalously warm temperatures are associated with increased injury deaths.” Nature Medicine 2020.The Anthropocene