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Extreme heat killed over 61,000 people in Europe’s record-breaking 2022 summer

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More than 61,000 people across Europe were killed due to extreme heat-related diseases in the summer of 2022, a recent study showed.

Published in Nature Medicine journal, the article called for increased action for protection from deadly heat waves expected to hit Europe in the years to come as the continent warms twice faster than the global average as a result of human-induced climate change.

Scientists from Barcelona Institute for Global Health and France‘s health research institute INSERM revealed that as many as 61,672 deaths that took place between May 30 and Sept. 4 last year resulted from extreme heat conditions.

The study pointed out the intense heatwave that took place from July 18 to July 24 alone accounted for over 11,600 deaths.

European Statistical Office (Eurostat) also warned in previous studies that the continent would be exposed to even more deadly heatwaves in the near future.

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Women and elderly at higher risk

The the summer of 2022 went down as the hottest summer ever recorded.

Italy had the highest number of deaths related to heat hazards with 18,010. It was followed by Spain with 11,324 deaths and Germany with 8,173, the research stated.

The elderly above 80 accounted for most of the death toll, while approximately 63 percent of all heat-related deaths consisted of women.

The difference in between were more notable among people above 80, in which the mortality rate in women was 27 percent higher than men.

‘Over 120,000 people can die of extreme heat annually by 2050’

The average global temperatures have risen approximately 1,2°C since the mid-1800s whereas Europe turned out to be 2,3°C warmer than the pre-industrial levels.

The new study estimates that unless necessary measures are taken to protect the population, Europe may face an average death toll of 68,000 annually due to extreme heat by 2030.

The average annual number of heat-related deaths is expected to rise to 94,000 by 2040, and it can soar above 120,000 annually by 2050, researchers indicated.

How are heatwaves related to climate crisis?

Climate change, resulting from human activities, mainly burning fossil fuels, plays a role in increasing the frequency, severity as well as likelihood of weather events called heat waves.

Commonly dubbed ‘silent killers’ by scientists, heatwaves kill thousands of people every year across the globe.

While exposure to high temperatures leads to death directly or through health hazards, extreme heat also makes it difficult to sustain daily life and work. High temperatures have a far more deadly impact on urban settlements yet it still can have devastating effects on agriculture and farming, as well as knock-on effects increasing the risk of wildfires.

The good news is that measures to mitigate the impact of the heatwaves can significantly reduce the death toll. The measures may include cooling indoor spaces, changing shifts, or reducing working hours in urban environments.

Scientists note that developing countries are the least likely to implement comprehensive heat plans. As the efforts to contain global warming continue, it is still possible to implement steps to limit the Loss and Damage caused by extreme weather events.

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