Heat would have caused more than 70,000 premature deaths in Europe in 2022

Heat would have caused more than 70,000 premature deaths in Europe in 2022

The impact of climate change on people’s health could be even more disastrous than expected, a new European study reveals. On the Old Continent, rising temperatures would ultimately not be responsible for around 62,000 premature deaths, as initially predicted, but for more than 70,000… Just for the year 2022. Explanations.

Mortality linked to rising temperatures, and more particularly the record temperatures recorded in 2022 and 2023, constitutes a heavy burden for all populations around the world. A problem in which a team of researchers from the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal) was interested, revealing alarming figures on the subject this summer. Published in the journal Nature Medicine, the study then estimated the number of deaths attributable to heat between May 30 and September 4, 2022 in Europe at nearly 62,000. Barely four months later, using a new methodology, researchers revised these figures upwards, significantly, since high temperatures would ultimately be responsible for more than 70,000 premature deaths.

Underestimated data

In the first study, scientists based themselves on epidemiological models applied to weekly temperature and mortality data in 35 European countries. Note that, upon publication of this work, the researchers clarified that the use of weekly data could lead to an underestimate of heat-related mortality. They therefore subsequently deepened their research using a new theoretical framework. Which this time was based on daily recordings of temperatures and mortality in 147 regions of 16 European countries. Then the researchers set about analyzing and comparing the estimates of mortality linked to heat and cold according to different levels of aggregation: daily, weekly, bi-weekly and monthly.

As a result, the authors found that the weekly, biweekly, and monthly models underestimated the effects of heat and cold compared to the daily model. For example, the daily model estimated annual mortality and the number of premature deaths linked to heat and cold at 290,104 and 39,434, respectively, for the period 1998-2004, while the weekly model underestimated them. estimated at 8.56% and 21.56%. They therefore used this new theoretical framework to calculate mortality linked to the record temperatures recorded in 2022 in Europe, revising it upwards to ultimately reach 70,066 premature deaths. Even more alarming figures can be found in their study published in The Lancet Regional Health – Europe.

Deaths increase fivefold by 2050

The same journal recently unveiled an equally worrying study, revealing that climate inaction could be responsible for a five-fold increase in heat-related deaths by 2050. Food insecurity, infectious diseases, economic losses , and outdated health systems could be among the main threats endangering populations, linked to climate change. In more detail, if the objective of limiting global warming to 1.5°C is not achieved, the annual number of heat-related deaths could increase by 370% by 2050, and exposure to heat heat could lead to a 50% increase in the number of potentially lost working hours worldwide.

Faced with these dire projections, adaptation alone cannot address the effects of climate change, and the costs are quickly becoming insurmountable. We need to go beyond treating the health symptoms of climate change and focus on primary prevention. The root causes of climate change must be addressed by rapidly accelerating mitigation measures across all sectors so that the scale of health risks does not exceed the adaptive capacity of health systems. If governments don’t finally start acting on these warnings, the situation will get significantly worse“, explained Professor Stella Hartinger, co-author of this report.