Attributing Human Mortality During Extreme Heat Waves to Anthropogenic Climate Change

Tuesday, 15 December 2015: 09:14
3014 (Moscone West)
Dann Mitchell1, Clare Heaviside2, Sotiris Vardoulakis2, Chris Huntingford3, Giacomo Masato4, Benoit P Guillod5, Peter C Frumhoff6, Andy Bowery7 and Myles Robert Allen8, (1)Oxford University, Oxford, United Kingdom, (2)Public Health England, London, United Kingdom, (3)Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Wallingford, United Kingdom, (4)University of Reading, Reading, United Kingdom, (5)University of Oxford, ECI/School of Geography and the Environment, Oxford, United Kingdom, (6)Union of Concerned Scientists, Cambridge, MA, United States, (7)University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom, (8)University of Oxford, Physics, Oxford, United Kingdom
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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