Extreme Heat Risks May Be Widely Underestimated and Sometimes Left Out of Major Climate Reports

By District Energy posted 05-17-2021 13:54


Inside Climate News


While scientists warn with increasing urgency that global warming is sharply increasing the likelihood of deadly heat waves, many regions are doing little to protect vulnerable populations. 

Recent research shows that the global death toll from extreme heat is rising, but still, “Large parts of society don’t think of heat as a threat,” said University of Oxford University climate scientist Fredi Otto after researchers unveiled a series of new extreme heat studies at the European Geosciences Union online conference last month. 

The research discussed at the conference suggests that many models are underestimating the short-term threat to the most vulnerable areas—densely populated tropical regions—and that the threats aren’t clearly communicated. And a study released in late April showed that, in the U.S., the risk of power failures during such heatwaves could increase the death toll. 

Last week’s updates to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Climate Indicators website, which had been delayed for years by the Trump administration, showed that major U.S. cities experienced three times as many heat waves—four or more days with temperatures that should only occur every 10 years—in the 2010s as during the 1960s. The season in which heat waves occur has lengthened by 47 days. In addition to heat exhaustion, recent research also showed that extreme heat dramatically increases the chances of pre-term births.

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