Climate change effect: Warming temperatures could kill thousands of Americans each year, study finds
A rise of 1.5 and 2 degree celsius, might bring about 2,100 and 1,600 additional deaths every year due to injuries -- with drowning and transport accidents becoming more common
Abnormal temperatures driven by climate change can cause around an additional 2,100 deaths among Americans each year due to injury-related deaths. Car accidents, suicide, drowning and other fatal injuries might become more rampant, even if we stick to the Paris Climate agreement of keeping temperatures below 2 degree celsius, according to a new study.
Rising temperatures might take a heavy toll on younger Americans -- especially among men aged between 15 and 34 years. California, Texas, and Florida are expected to be hit the most.
"Our work highlights how deaths from injuries including assaults, suicides, transport and drowning deaths currently rise with warm temperature, and could also worsen by rising temperatures resulting from climate change unless countered by social and health system infrastructure that mitigate these impacts," says Dr. Robbie Parks, lead author from Columbia University's Earth Institute.
To come up with the prediction, Dr. Parks and his colleagues looked at the past: from 1980 to 2017. During this 38-year period, the team examined information on deaths caused by injuries due to accidents -- transport, falls and drowning -- and intentional ones, including assault and suicide, in mainland United States, except Hawaii and Alaska. Then, the team checked for records of monthly abnormalities in temperature during that period and matched them with the data on injury. This was done to check whether the US saw a spike in injury-related deaths during warmer conditions.
Their analysis showed that 4.1 million boys and men and 1.8 million girls and women died from an injury, primarily from transport, falls, drownings, assault and suicide. Building on the past data, the team predicted the number of additional deaths for an increase in average temperatures. A rise of 1.5 and 2 degree celsius, might bring about 2,100 and 1,600 additional deaths due to injuries -- with drowning and transport accidents becoming more common.
The study does not explain how warmer temperatures drive injuries. However, they suspect that this has something to do with people spending more time outdoors, increasing the risk of accidents: people swim, drive and drink more during these conditions. Also, warmer conditions are likely to cause mental distress, triggering a spike in suicide rates, they explain.
The risk of more deaths can be reduced by cutting carbon emissions and limiting future warming, and by public health efforts, such as targeting young men with campaigns about the risks of drowning, Dr. Parks tells NewScientist.
The study has been published in Nature Medicine.