Weather disasters to impact 2 out of 3 Europeans by 2100, study says
By the end of the century, two out of three people living in Europe will be affected by heat waves, coastal floods and other weather-related disasters, largely due to global warming and climate change, according to a study published Friday in the journal Lancet Planetary Health.
The researchers estimate that 99% of future weather-related deaths will be due to heat waves. That could very well cause a spike in cardiovascular disease, stroke and respiratory diseases, the researchers suggested.
“This should be considered in light of the devastating effects of the 2003 European and 2010 Russian heat waves, where thousands died. The thought of such events occurring more frequently is frightening,” said Andrew Grundstein, a professor with the University of Georgia’s Department of Geography who was not affiliated with the new study.
To understand the future effects of extreme weather, the researchers combined projections on climate change and population growth with 2,300 records from 1981 to 2010 that identified disasters and death tolls across countries.
“This study shows that, unless global warming is curbed as a matter of urgency and appropriate adaptation measures are taken, about 350 million Europeans could be exposed to harmful climate extremes on an annual basis by the end of this century, with a 50-times increase in fatalities compared with now,” Forzieri said.
While cold waves are expected to decrease due to the estimated rise in global temperature, that doesn’t compensate for the increases in deaths due to heat waves, coastal and river flooding, wildfires, windstorms and droughts, according to the study. These disasters can also cause direct injuries.
The study estimates did not factor in reductions of greenhouse gas emissions or policy improvements. This “business as usual” emissions scenario is the closest to reality, Sublette said, but a lower emissions scenario should also be studied for comparison.
The study also looked at weather hazards as independent from each other, rather than the possibility that they may be combined, according to a letter accompanying the study, written by Jae Young Lee and Ho Kim of Seoul National University.
Forzieri and his colleagues believe that their study is relevant to priorities outlined in the Paris Agreement, the UN Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction and the European Union Strategy on Adaptation to Climate Change.