Attributing Human Mortality During Extreme Heat Waves to Anthropogenic Climate Change
Abstract:Climate change is the biggest global health threat of the 21st century (Costello et al, 2009; Watts et al, 2015). Perhaps one of the clearest examples of this is the summer heat wave of 2003, which saw up to seventy thousand excess deaths across Europe (Robine et al, 2007). The extreme temperatures are now thought to be significantly enhanced due to anthropogenic climate change (Stott et al, 2004; Christidis et al, 2015). Here, we consider not only the Europe-wide temperature response of the heat wave, but the localised response using a high-resolution regional model simulating 2003 climate conditions thousands of times. For the first time, by employing end-to-end attribution, we attribute changes in mortality to the increased radiative forcing from climate change, with a specific focus on London and Paris. We show that in both cities, a sizable proportion of the excess mortality can be attributed to human emissions. With European heat waves projected to increase into the future, these results provide a worrying reality for what may lie ahead.
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