Study finds extreme weather can claim up to 152,000 lives annually in Europe by 2100

Updated 2017-08-07 15:40:34 Xinhua

A newly published European study on climate showed that weather-related disasters could kill some 152,000 people every year in Europe if climate change is not curbed, and that heat waves would be the cause of 99 percent of those deaths.

The study, co-authored by European Commission's joint research center and published in The Lancet Planetary Health journal, said if no actions are taken to cut greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate the impact of extreme weather events, Europe will see 50 times more deaths per year between 2071 and 2100 than in the 1981-2010 period.

It also found that weather-related disasters could affect about two-thirds of the European population per year by 2100, which translates into 351 million annually. The rate in the 1981-2010 reference period, however, is 5 percent, the study showed.

Geographically, the study said southern Europe will be worst affected. Premature mortality rate due to extreme weathers by the end of the century -- 700 in a million inhabitants -- "could become the greatest environmental risk factor," it added.

Europe, especially the southern part of it, has been experiencing scorching heat waves this summer as countries like Italy once recorded temperatures of above 44 degrees Celsius (111 degrees Fahrenheit), levels not seen during the same period in previous years.

Global warming, according to the study, dominates the causes of those changes, with heat waves projected to be responsible for 151,500 of the 152,500 annual deaths, or 99 percent, by 2100.

Meanwhile, coastal flooding is also on track of becoming increasingly life-threatening, from which death tolls are expected to rise substantially from six per year at the start of the century to 233 per year by the end of it, or a 3,780-percent increase.

As far as other fatal weather disasters are concerned, deaths related to wildfires will grow by 138 percent, river floods by 54 percent, and windstorms by 20 percent, the study demonstrated.

While climate change accounts for 90 percent of extreme weather events and is thus the principal reason for the risks, the remaining 10 percent will likely be the results of population growth, human migration and urbanization, the study found.

The scientists researched the seven most dangerous types of extreme weather events -- heat waves, cold snaps, wildfires, droughts, river and coastal floods and windstorms -- in the 28 European Union member states plus Switzerland, Norway and Iceland.

By combining disaster records of the 1981-2010 period with predictions of climate change and population increase and migration, the study estimated fatalities in the European population caused by weather-related hazards in three 30-year intervals up to 2100 (2011-2040, 2041-2070 and 2071-2100).

It assumed that the average global temperature will rise by 3 degrees Celsius (5.4 degrees Fahrenheit) from the 1990 levels by the end of the century, above the targets agreed by nearly 200 countries in the 2015 Paris climate accord.

Signatories of the Paris pact, the most widely agreed international deal to date, are committed to "holding the increase in the global temperature to well below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels," said the agreement's text.

"Climate change is one of the biggest global threats to human health of the 21st century, and its peril to society will be increasingly connected to weather-driven hazards," said Giovanni Forzieri, co-author of the study representing the European Commission.

"Global warming could result in rapidly rising human impacts unless adequate adaptation measures are taken, with an especially steep rise in the mortality risks of extreme heat," Paul Wilkinson, a professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, was quoted by German broadcaster Deutsche Welle as saying.

The professor added that the study, which he was not personally involved in, "adds further weight to the powerful argument for accelerating mitigation actions to protect population health."

On Friday, the same day when the study was published, the United States, one of the world's biggest greenhouse gas emitters, notified the United Nations for the first time in a written document of its intention to pull out from the Paris deal.

U.S. President Trump's announcement in June to part his country with international efforts in combating climate change drew worldwide condemnation, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel saying Europe could no longer rely on its American ally but had to "take their destiny into their own hands."

French President Emmanuel Macron told French media that he used his "charm offensive" while trying to persuade Trump to rejoin the Paris agreement during the pair's meetings in mid-July.

The Macron-Trump meetings came one week after the Group of 20 meeting concluded in Hamburg, Germany, where rift on climate change between Washington and other members had given them a hard time finding commonly acceptable wordings in the final communique.

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