Global warming will increase world death rate
NewScientist.com news service, June 28. 2007
The increase in extremely hot summers predicted by climate change models will lead to a higher death toll that will not be offset by fewer deaths during warmer winters, say researchers.
"The increase in mortality when you have one extra cold snap is 1.59%, but the increase in mortality for an additional heatwave is 5.74%," explains Mercedes Medina-Ramón of Harvard University's School of Public Health in Massachusetts, US.
Medina-Ramón and colleagues looked at how temperature correlated to mortality in 50
The team says that the widespread use of central heating in US cities means that people across the country are equally prepared to cope with cold snaps. But workplaces and homes are not equally equipped with air conditioners.
As a result, they found that cities with less air conditioning and denser populations suffered a greater increase in the number of deaths on extremely hot summer days.
They caution that the knee-jerk reaction to go out and carpet the country with air-conditioning units would be ill-advised.
"Air conditioning itself constitutes a problem for climate change," says Medina-Ramón. "The more we increase air conditioning, the more we increase our energy consumption, and therefore our carbon dioxide emissions which will just make the problem worse."
In the past few days, a heat wave in southeastern
Journal reference: Occupational and Environmental Medicine (DOI:10.1136/oem.2007.033175)