More than 61,000 people died from the heat during Europe’s record-setting summer last year, a study said Monday, calling for more to be done to protect against the deadliest. heatwaves expected in the coming years.
The world’s fastest-warming continent is set to experience its hottest summer on record in 2022, as countries are hit by sweltering heat waves, crop-withering droughts and devastating bushfires. forest.
The European Union’s statistics agency Eurostat has reported an unusually high number of excess summer deaths, but the amount directly linked to the heat has never been measured before.
A group of researchers looked at temperature and mortality data from 2015 to 2022 for 823 regions in 35 European countries, covering a total of 543 million people.
Researchers from the Barcelona Institute for Global Health and the French health research institute INSERM used models to predict deaths due to temperature in each region for each week of the summer of 2022.
They estimated that 61,672 deaths were related to heat between May 30 and September 4 last year, according to the study published in the journal Nature Medicine.
A particularly severe heatwave during the week of July 18-24 caused more than 11,600 deaths alone, the study said.
“This is a high number of deaths,” said Hicham Achebak, an INSERM researcher and study partner.
“We know the impact of heat on mortality after 2003, but with this analysis, we see that there is a lot of work that needs to be done to protect the population,” he told AFP.
More than 70,000 excess deaths were recorded in 2003 during one of the worst heat waves in European history.
Women and over 80 years old are weak
Last year France recorded the biggest increase in heat compared to last summer’s average, with a jump of 2.43 degrees Celsius, the study said.
Not far behind was Switzerland with an increase of 2.30C, followed by Italy with 2.28C and Hungary with 2.13C.
Italy has the highest heat-related deaths with 18,010, followed by Spain with 11,324 and Germany with 8,173.
The majority of those who died were people over 80 years old, the study said.
Approximately 63 percent of those who died due to heat were women, the analysis said.
The difference becomes more pronounced at age 80, when women have a mortality rate that is 27 percent higher than men.
Previous research has shown that Europe is warming at twice the global average.
While the world has warmed on average by around 1.2C since the mid-1800s, last year Europe was around 2.3C warmer than in pre-industrial times.
Unless something is done to protect people against rising temperatures, by 2030 Europe will face an average of more than 68,000 heat-related deaths each summer, a new study estimates.
By 2040, there will be an average of more than 94,000 heat-related deaths — and by 2050, the number could rise to more than 120,000, the researchers said.
“These predictions are based on current vulnerability levels and future temperatures,” Achebak said.
“If we take very effective measures, that vulnerability can be reduced,” he added.
Raquel Nunes, a health and climate expert at Warwick University in the UK who was not involved in the research, said the study “highlights the urgent need for action to protect vulnerable populations from the effects of heatwaves” .
Chloe Brimicombe, a climate scientist at the University of Graz in Austria, said this “shows that strategies to prevent heat need to be re-examined, with gender and age in particular in mind”.