European deaths from global warming set for long term rise

Friday 24th Jun 2011 by theWeather club

It has to be said that there are not many apparent up-sides to global warming, but scientists had long believed that Europe was going to experience one of them. The continent was supposed to see fewer deaths from the combination of extreme heat and cold as temperatures rose. However new research suggests that even this faintest of silver linings will not last.

The scientific consensus was that the number of deaths related to hot summers would be more than offset by a reduced number of deaths during the milder winters. But a new study has found that by about 2040, the increase in heat related deaths is likely to overtake the reduction in cold related ones. It suggests that by 2070, global warming may cause 15,000 more temperature-related deaths a year in Europe.

The study released by Nature Communications looks only at deaths from heat and cold, excluding increases from other warming related events such as flooding, droughts and storms. It used computer models to analyze the climate under global warming and compares that to death rates in 200 separate regions of Europe.  The study's chief author, climatologist Joan Ballester from the Catalan Institute of Climate Sciences in Barcelona, cautioned that the same casualty assumptions should not be made for other continents. Overall, the decreases in European temperature-related deaths “are going to be clearly lower than what was expected,” Ballester said.

According to Ballester's calculations in around 2025, Europe will probably have the fewest temperature-related deaths in recent times, falling to about 11,000 a year fewer than now. But then it begins to increase and by 2070, total temperature-related deaths will likely be higher.

Some places in Europe will suffer more than others, with southern Europe, especially Italy, suffering larger increases in heat deaths. This would more than offset a potential fall in northern places like the United Kingdom and parts of Scandinavia. So it seems that the scientific consensus has been proved right about the bigger picture. An increasingly warming planet really is bad news for us all.