Scientists are predicting an increase in heat-related deaths due to climate change, giving the NRDC more reason to support regulation of greenhouse gasses, according to Texas Climate News:
With summer’s unofficial start looming on Memorial Day, a major environmental group seized the warm-weather occasion last week to try to build support for the Obama administration’s regulation of greenhouse gases at new power plants and to call for such controls at existing plants, too.
The effort took the form of a report, issued by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), which detailed the increase in heat-related deaths that scientists have projected to occur throughout the 21st century as a result of higher temperatures and other weather changes due to manmade global warming.
The NRDC based its report on a peer-reviewed study [pdf] that was published last October in Weather, Climate and Society, the journal of the American Meteorological Society. One of the study authors, Laurence S. Kalkstein, a research professor at the University of Miami in Florida, reviewed the environmental group’s document to confirm that it accurately reflected the original study’s findings.
The conclusions, which may be somewhat surprising to Texans, included the calculation that in the 40 most populous U.S. cities, including three in Texas, “more than 150,000 additional Americans could die by the end of this century due to excessive heat caused by climate change.”
The cities with the most additional heat-related deaths projected by the study’s scientists through 2099 were Louisville (with 18,988 deaths), Detroit (17,877) and Cleveland (16,600).
And in the considerably hotter climes of Texas? Dallas was the top-ranked city (with 7,271 extra projected deaths over the nearly nine decades through 2099), while the totals for San Antonio (631 deaths) and Houston (1,391) were much lower.
(The NRDC presented statistics from the original study’s projections that incorporated a “business-as-usual” assumption for an “unfettered” increase in greenhouse emissions, but coupled with actions to warn and protect the public during excessive heat, which were expected to reduce the death toll somewhat.)
So what gives with numbers like Detroit’s nearly 18,000 deaths and San Antonio’s 631? Why would hyper-hot Texas cities (also hyper-humid in Houston’s case) have numbers so much smaller than in cities far to the north? (Minneapolis, not generally known for excessive heat, had a fatality projection of 7,516, slightly higher than Dallas, infamous for long strings of 100-degree-plus days in the summertime.)
Texas Climate News asked Kalkstein to address the question.
“First, it’s not just the intensity of heat that kills people, it’s variability of the weather that’s more important,” he said. “More people die of heat-related illness in Toronto than in Phoenix.”