A NOAA map depicting the Memorial Day heatwave from a couple of weeks ago. This jarring imagine will become the new normal unless we act to curb global warming. 

According to a new study in the journal Science Advances, meeting the Paris Climate Agreement’s goals of keeping the rise of global average temperatures to 1.5° C could substantially mitigate heat-related mortality in U.S. cities. This new study is one of the first to investigate how future climate scenarios might impact heat-related fatalities in humans. Its findings show that by limiting global warming, around 2,720 annual heat-related deaths could be avoided during extreme heat events in the United States. 

In Practical Terms: The study conducted by the University of Bristol examined 15 U.S. cities (Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York City, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Francisco, Seattle, St. Louis, and Washington, DC) to cover a range of regions and climates in the United States. Then the researchers examined how much temperatures in those cities would rise if we keep the rise in global average temperatures to 3°C, 2°C, and the 1.5°C as outlined in the Paris Climate Agreement thresholds. They then projected heat-related deaths avoided by achieving these thresholds. What they found was complying with the Paris Agreement temperature thresholds, 1 in 30 heat-related mortalities can be avoided.

Why This Matters: The United States is the world’s second biggest emitter of carbon yet is doing less on a federal level than most any other nation to address its emissions and join the global effort to fight climate change. At the same time, extreme heat is on the rise in the United States and dangerous, unexpected heat waves are beginning to occur earlier in the year leaving people unprepared and vulnerable. This study shows the loss of American life to extreme heat can be avoided if we get our act together and work to rapidly decarbonize our economy. Climate action is truly a life or death matter.

 

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