- REUTERS/Zoran Milich
Already, more Americans die from heat waves than from all other natural disasters combined, according to NYC.gov. And the situation will get worse over the next 60 years.
By 2080, the number of hot days is expected to triple. As many as 3,331 people could die from heat exposure every summer in New York City if no steps are taken to adapt to climate change and reduce emissions.
This warning comes from a new study from Columbia University published in Environmental Health Perspectives.
The study analyzed the effects of future climate change on New York using data from 33 global climate models, and included estimates of greenhouse-gas emission trajectories, migration to the city, future population sizes, and demographics (since the elderly and very young are especially vulnerable to heat events). It also looked at the availability of air conditioning and public cooling centers.
That death toll could be half as much – only 1,552 annual deaths by 2080 – if steps such as reducing fossil-fuel use and coating roofs with reflective paint are taken. But that’s still a much higher number than today. There were about 600 heat-related deaths annually in New York City between 2000 and 2006, according to Reuters.
This is already the hottest the earth has ever been, according to recent data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Heat waves are more frequent all over the US. And the mean annual temperatures in New York City are projected to increase by 5.3 to 8.8 degrees Fahrenheit by the 2080s, according to Reuters.
While this study is focused on New York, other big cities will see similar effectsbecause of the “urban island effect.”
Urban centers with a million or more people can be 1.8 to 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than surrounding areas, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency, as concrete buildings store more heat than plants.