Mar 7, 2022 - Health

Global warming could increase risk of extreme temperature deaths

Animated illustration of the Earth at the bottom of a thermometer with the ocean liquid rising up and filling the thermometer.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The risk of deaths due to extreme temperatures could rise significantly under a warming scenario of more than 2°C, according to a study published Monday in the journal Environmental Research Letters.

Why it matters: As Axios' Andrew Freedman reported recently, peer-reviewed research the world is already on course for at least 3°C (5.4°F) of warming above preindustrial levels — and running out of time to do something about it.

The new study, led by researchers at University College of London and the University of Reading, looked specifically at the impact of rising temperatures in England during the hottest days of the year.

  • Temperature-related deaths will increase by 42% if temperatures rise 2°C from pre-industrial levels, the study estimates.
  • But the expected increase won't go in a straight line. In a scenario where global warming rises to 3°C, the risk of death would jump 75% during heatwaves.
  • "The increase in mortality risk under current warming levels is mainly notable during heatwaves, but with further warming, we would see risk rise on average summer days," lead author Katty Huang, a research fellow at University College of London.
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