The number of annual deaths caused by hot weather in the UK is expected to rise by over 257% by the year 2050, according to new research from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and Public Health England.
The significant rise will be primarily as the result of a warming climate, a growing population, and rising energy costs. Unsurprisingly, this increase will not be distributed evenly — the elderly (75+), the destitute, and the disabled, will be the most affected. The research suggests that London and the Midlands will be the areas seeing the largest increases.
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Among the most interesting findings of the new research is that the number of “hot weather days” is expected to triple in frequency by the mid 2080s, while the number of cold days falls, but at a notably less dramatic rate. So, essentially, the hot parts of the year will be getting notably hotter, while the cold parts of the year will be warming at a much slower pace.
The British Medical Journal explains the work:
The research team, from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and Public Health England, used time-series regression analysis to chart historic (1993-2006) fluctuations in weather patterns and death rates to characterise the associations between temperature and mortality, by region and by age group.
They then applied these to projected population increases and local climate to estimate the future number of deaths likely to be caused by temperature — hot and cold — for the 2020s, 2050s, and 2080s. They based their calculations on the projected daily average temperatures for 2000-09, 2020-29, 2050-59 and 2080-89, derived from the British Atmospheric Data Centre (BADC), and population growth estimates from the Office of National Statistics.
The calculations indicated a significantly increased risk of deaths associated with temperature across all regions of the UK, with the elderly most at risk. In the absence of any adaptive measures, excess deaths related to heat would be expected to rise by 257% by the 2050s, from an annual baseline of 2000, while those related to the cold would be expected to fall by 2% as a result of milder winters, from a current toll of around 41,000, but will still remain significant.
Amongst the other notable findings of the research:
- Those over the age of 85 will be the most affected — a group that is projected to increase in proportion to the rest of the population significantly by that time.
- There will be notable regional variations — London and the Midlands will become more vulnerable to hot weather; while Wales, the North West, Eastern England and the South will remain more vulnerable to cold weather.
- The steeply rising costs of fuels will make adaption harder. The rising temperatures will contribute to these rising fuel costs as the demand for active cooling systems is projected to rise significantly.
- Effective adaption would include the use of such simple technologies as “shading, thermal insulation, and choice of construction materials implemented at the design stage of urban developments,” according to the researchers.
The new research was just published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.