Hundreds of London and Paris heatwave deaths linked to climate change

8 Jul 2016

A new report into the 2003 heatwave that hit Europe has suggested that half of the 1,000 deaths that occurred in London and Paris can be attributed to climate change.

After looking at 315 deaths in the greater London area, and 735 deaths in Paris “strongly linked to the 2003 heatwave”, researchers have suggested climate change was to blame in half of the instances.

Using climate simulations for focused, regional situations, lead author Daniel Mitchell and his colleagues found that “anthropogenic (human-caused) climate change” increased the risk of heat-related deaths by 70pc in Paris and 30pc in London.

Future Human

The paper, published in Environmental Research Letters, is aimed at highlighting where and when emergency plans can be put into action, however, attributing such volumes of death towards human-made climate change is quite a claim.

“Deaths are usually recorded as being due to a specific cause such as cardiovascular disease or cancer, which makes it difficult to make a direct connection between deaths recorded during a heatwave and exposure to heat specifically,” explained Clare Heaviside, second author on the paper.

To differentiate between the deaths that were caused by anthropogenic climate change and those that were not, Heaviside and her colleagues ran simulations that included actual raised atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations, compared to what they consider more ‘natural’ conditions.

“Under the simulations with pre-industrial levels of GHGs, the probabilities of extreme temperatures are lower,” said Heaviside.

“It is often difficult to understand the implications of a planet that is one degree warmer than pre-industrial levels in the global average, but we are now at the stage where we can identify the cost to our health of manmade global warming,” said Mitchell.

“This research reveals that, in two cities alone, hundreds of deaths can be attributed to much higher temperatures resulting from human-induced climate change.”

Last month, climate change was linked with a possibly devastating reduction in penguin colonies in Antarctica.

In Ireland, a dedicated climate change awareness centre has been planned for next year.

Situated at the Powerscourt Estate, the Cool Planet Experience will provide visitors with an interactive journey to help them understand climate change, the challenge that faces us and how can we adapt to a carbon-free future.

Heatwave image via Shutterstock

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic