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Heat-related deaths in Europe may treble if world warms 3C, warns IPCC report

Mortality and morbidity due to heat one of key risks for continent, scientists say

Zoe Tidman
Monday 28 February 2022 11:06 GMT
Greece was hit by a heatwave last summer
Greece was hit by a heatwave last summer (AFP via Getty Images)

The number of deaths and people at risk of heat stress in Europe could be up to three times higher with a 3C rise in global temperatures compared to the target of 1.5C, according to a new landmark report.

The United Nations put mortality and illness as among the main risks faced by the continent from the climate crisis in an assessment published on Monday.

The new report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) - the world’s leading authority on climate science - focussd on the impacts of a warming world on people and nature.

It found the climate crisis was negatively impacting physical health around the world, as well as mental health in regions looked at - the first time it made this link.

Specifically on Europe, the report said the impacts of compound heatwaves and droughts have become more frequent due to the warming planet.

One of the key risks identified for the continent was “mortality and morbidity of people and changes in ecosystems due to heat”.

The report, written by 270 authors from dozens of countries, said its scientists were highly confident the “number of deaths and people at risk of heat stress will increase two- to threefold” if global temperatures rise by 3C instead of 1.5C compared to pre-industrial levels - the target set by the 2015 Paris Agreement.

European populations and heath systems could find they can no longer adapt to cope with the climate crisis in the case of a 3C rise, the report warned.

Last year, the UK’s Met Office warned Europe could see near 50C heat every year by the end of the century unless urgent action was taken to slash greenhouse gas emissions warming the planet.

The continent experienced its hottest summer on record last year, according to an analysis by EU scientists.

The IPPC said the climate crisis and related extreme events - which include heatwaves - “will significantly increase ill health and premature deaths from the near- to long-term”.

Its scientists said the percentage of the world’s population exposed to deadly heat stress is projected to increase from current levels of 30 per cent to between 48 to 76 per cent by the end of the century, depending on future warming levels and location.

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