By the end of the century extreme weather events may affect two out of three Europeans every year
By 2100, two in three people living in Europe may be affected by weather-related disasters, according to a study published in The Lancet Planetary Health on 4 August 2017.
The projected increases were calculated on the assumption of there being no reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and no improvement in policies helping to reduce the impact of extreme weather events (such as medical technology, air conditioning, and thermal insulation in houses).
Seven most harmful disasters
The study analyses the effects of the seven most harmful types of weather-related disaster – heatwaves, cold waves, wildfires, droughts, river- and coastal floods, and windstorms – in the 28 European countries, Switzerland, Norway and Iceland.
“Climate change is one of the biggest global threats to human health of the 21st century, and its peril to society will be increasingly connected to weather-driven hazards,” says lead author Dr Giovanni Forzieri, European Commission Joint Research Centre, Italy.
“Unless global warming is curbed as a matter of urgency and appropriate measures are taken, about 350 million Europeans could be exposed to harmful climate extremes on an annual basis by the end of the century.”
Heatwaves are most lethal
The study estimates that heatwaves would be the most lethal weather-related disaster, and could cause 99% of all future weather-related deaths. It also projects substantial increases in deaths from coastal flooding.
Comparatively, wildfires, river floods, windstorms and droughts showed smaller projected increases overall, but these types of weather-related disaster could affect some countries more than others. Cold waves could decline as a result of global warming, however, the effect of this decline will not be sufficient to compensate for the other increases.
Stringent climate mitigation policies necessary
“This study contributes to the ongoing debate about the need to urgently curb climate change and minimise its consequences.
“The substantial projected rise in risk of weather-related hazards to human beings due to global warming, population growth, and urbanisation highlights the need for stringent climate mitigation policies and adaptation and risk reduction measures to minimise the future effect of weather-related extremes on human lives.” adds Dr Forzieri.
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