One of the biggest obstacles in confronting climate control is the lack of urgency. Even some of the people who see the forthcoming environmental destruction lack the motivation to act because they dismiss it as a problem for future generations. While the consequences are bound to get worse, the truth is that climate change is already killing people. As a new study demonstrates, extreme temperatures caused by global warming have triggered premature deaths as far back as the 1980s.
Researchers in Stockholm, Sweden looked specifically at the heat wave mortalities in their city between 1980 and 2009. By comparing the time to an earlier 30-year span, the scientists were able to conclude that moments of extreme heat were much more frequent. Moreover, the increased heat was responsible for an additional 300 deaths that would not have occurred otherwise.
With this same data, the scientists looked at the impact on Sweden as a whole. They calculated that another 1,500 people died throughout the nation because of the soaring temperatures over the same time period. If the data were to be stretched to a global scale, the figure could easily exceed 1 million people.
Evidently, twice the number of people died from intense temperatures than would have without the impact of climate change. However, continually higher temperatures would certainly boost the mortality rate exponentially.
Some have argued that the fatality rate resulting from climate change would even out since, in contrast, fewer people would freeze during the milder winters. However, the researchers found that while winters are indeed becoming tamer overall, the erratic nature of climate change creates for more frequent extreme cold spurts. As a result, winter fatalities have actually increased by a small margin rather than declining.
Although experts expect the weather shifts to only get more severe over time, one way of reducing the number of deaths, particularly in the short term, would be to educate the public about the dangers of the extreme heat/cold. Encouraging people to more adequately prepare for unexpected temperatures would improve public safety, as well.
Though this study focused exclusively on extreme hot and cold weather created by climate change, certainly devastating natural disasters would also play a role in boosting the fatality rate. Thanks to climate change, hurricanes and other tremendous weather phenomenons are on the rise, leaving millions of victims in their wake.
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