Climate Change to Spur Major Rise in Heat Wave Deaths in Chicago


Photo credit: US Fish & Wildlife Service via Flickr/Public Domain
Chicago May See Up to 40 Times as Many Heat Wave Deaths a Year
No one seems to want to talk about all the shitty things that climate change is going to cause to happen anymore. But so as long as climate change is indeed going to cause some shitty things to happen, somebody should be mentioning them. So here goes: Researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health have done some estimates on how rising temperatures caused by climate change may impact extreme weather events in the city. And they've found that deaths caused by heat waves will rise dramatically as the temperature warms -- in the decades nearing the end of the century, the researchers estimate that there will be between 166 and 2,127 deaths from heat waves per year. Roger Peng, PhD, lead author of the study and associate professor in the Department of Biostatistics at the Bloomberg School of Public Health, tells Newsroom America that "Our study looks to quantify the impact of increased heat waves on human mortality. For major a U.S. city like Chicago, the impact will likely be profound and potentially devastating," said . "We would expect the impact to be less severe with mitigation efforts including lowering CO2 emissions."

So if we proceed with the status quo that we've been so keen on preserving, we can look forward to more heatwave-y cities in coming years. Over the last 25 years or so, there have been 14 heat waves lasting an average of 14 days -- and each caused an average of 53 excess deaths. To make their predictions, Peng's team analyzed three different models of warming -- and the least amount of warming effectively triples the impact of the heat waves we're seeing now. The more severe estimates see a death toll increased by 40 times.

"It's very difficult to make predictions, but given what we know now--absent any form of adaptation or mitigation--our study shows that climate change will exacerbate the health impact of heat waves across a range of plausible future scenarios," Peng told Newsroom. That's for sure.

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