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'Killer Summer Heat': How Climate Change Is Killing Us

Common Dreams staff

Source: Killer Summer Heat: The Death Toll from Rising Temperatures in America Due to Climate Change, a new report by NRDC

A new report released today from NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) shows how climate change is killing us as heat-related deaths in the U.S. are set to rise to 150,000 by the end of the century due to soaring carbon pollution.

“These hotter days have a real human cost,” said Dr. Larry Kalkstein, research professor of geography and regional studies at the University of Miami.

The report, Killer Summer Heat, describes how a 4°F - 11°F expected rise in average temperatures will contribute to an increase in heat-related illnesses such as heat exhaustion, heat stroke, cardiovascular disease, and kidney disease.

“This is a wake-up call. Climate change has a number of real life-and-death consequences. One of which is that as carbon pollution continues to grow, climate change is only going to increase the number of dangerously hot days each summer, leading to a dramatic increase in the number of lives lost,” said Dan Lashof, director of NRDC’s climate and clean air program.

“To prevent the health impacts of climate change from getting even worse, we need to establish a comprehensive program to reduce heat-trapping pollution from all sources, by building on the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposals to limit carbon pollution from new power plants and cars,” said Lashof.

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NRDC release:
Heat-Related U.S. Deaths Projected to Rise 150,000 by Century's End Due to Climate Change
NRDC’s "Killer Summer Heat" Report Estimates Heat Death in Top 40 Cities

WASHINGTON (May 23, 2012) -- More than 150,000 additional Americans could die by the end of this century due to excessive heat caused by climate change, according to a detailed analysis of peer-reviewed scientific data by the Natural Resources Defense Council.

The “Killer Summer Heat” report, released today, projects heat-related death toll through the end of the 21st century in the most populated U.S. cities. The three with the highest number of total estimated heat-related deaths through 2099 are: Louisville, KY (19,000 deaths); Detroit (17,900); and Cleveland (16,600), according to the report.

Other cities’ estimated death tolls through the end of the century include: Baltimore (2,900 deaths); Boston (5,700 deaths); Chicago (6,400 deaths); Columbus (6,000 deaths); Denver (3,500 deaths); Los Angeles (1,200 deaths); Minneapolis (7,500 deaths); Philadelphia (700 deaths); Pittsburgh (1,200 deaths); Providence, R.I. (2,000 deaths); St. Louis (5,600 deaths); Washington, D.C. (3,000 deaths). [...]

The kinds of consequences of climate change highlighted in NRDC’s report are already evident:

At least 42 states saw record daytime highs in the summer of 2011 and 49 states saw record high nighttime temperatures, according to the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration.

Health impacts spike during excessive heat events. For example, California was hit by deadly heat waves in 2006, causing during a two-week period 655 deaths, 1,620 excess hospitalizations, and more than 16,000 additional emergency room visits occurred, resulting in nearly $5.4 billion in costs. During a record-setting heat wave in 1995, Chicago suffered over 700 additional heat-related deaths. [...]

NRDC based today’s analysis on two peer-reviewed studies co-authored by Kalkstein, one of which was published in the American Meteorological Society’s journal Weather, Climate, and Society, and the other published in Natural Hazards.

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