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Adhering to Paris Agreement climate goal could significantly decrease heat-related summer deaths

London sunset

Press release issued: 26 June 2018

As much of the UK and Europe swelters under heatwave conditions, new research led by scientists from the University of Bristol has produced compelling evidence that loss of life through increased heat stress during heatwaves can be limited if we stabilise climate at the lower of the Paris Agreement climate goals.

The paper, published this week in the journal Nature Climate Change, demonstrates that, all else being equal, mortality due to high temperatures could be significantly reduced (15-22 per cent per summer) in London and Paris if we stabilise climate at the lower of the Paris Climate Goals, 1.5 oC, as compared with the higher temperature goal.

In London, currently around 10 per cent of summers are free of any heat-related mortality, but this research has shown that under potential future climate change virtually all summers will have some heat-related mortality.

Researchers from Bristol who lead the HAPPI project (Half a degree Additional warming, Prognosis and Projected Impacts Model Intercomparison Project) simulated future climate under climate goals consistent with the 1.5oC and 2 oC global warming Paris Agreement climate goals. The project utilised researchers and citizen scientists from around the world to help run the experiments.

Cabot Institute member Dr Dann Mitchell, lead author of the study, and a lecturer in climate physics at the University of Bristol, said “Our results show a clear increase in heat-related mortality which can be avoided by adhering to the Paris Agreement goals.

“Together with the recent publication of a wealth of evidence presented for climate drivers of other impact sectors (such as the crop sector), it is becoming evermore clear as to how crucial these climate goals are.

“We need to understand the magnitude of these health impacts, so we can plan suitable adaptation strategies to prevent them.”

The research comes at a time where much of Europe is undergoing a heatwave, and the public are being advised to take care and check more regularly on vulnerable relatives and friends.

The research was carried out in collaboration with researchers at Public Health England, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Oxford University, the University of Washington, The European Centre for Environment and Human Health, ETH Zurich, and the National Institute for Environmental Studies in Tsukuba, Japan.

Further information

Paper:

‘Extreme heat-related mortality avoided under Paris Agreement goals’ by D. Mitchell, C. Heaviside, N. Schaller, M. Allen, K. Ebi, E. Fischer, A. Gasparrini, L. Harrington, V. Kharin, H. Shiogama, J. Sillmann, S. Sippel and S. Vardoulakis in Nature Climate Change

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