Deadly heat waves threaten economies, too

The drought that affected Italy's longest river, the Po, is the worst in the past 70 years

The drought that has affected Italy’s longest river, the Po River, is the worst in the past 70 years.

Experts say more frequent and intense heat waves are the most deadly form of extreme weather exacerbated by global warming, with the death toll sometimes running into the thousands, but they can also have devastating economic effects.

The prolonged, implausible burns that grip the central United States and roll north across Western Europe, sending the thermometer above 40°C (104°F), are likely to cause both.

deadly and costly

Extremely high temperatures have caused nearly 10 percent of the two million deaths attributed to extreme weather events From 1970 to 2019, according to the World Meteorological Organization.

Moreover, nearly all heat-related deaths have been since 2000, and especially the past decade: from 2010 to 2019, scorching heat was responsible for half of the 185,000 severe weather deaths that were recorded.

The European Environment Agency (EEA) states that heat waves in Europe accounted for about 90 percent of weather-related deaths between 1980 and 2022.

Heat waves are piling up Economic costs Also, but it’s harder to identify than damage from a storm or flood, and more difficult to secure.

But extended bouts of extreme heat can lead to more hospital visits, severe loss of productivity in construction and agriculture, reduced agricultural yields, and even direct damage to infrastructure. Excess deaths have an economic cost, too.

The EAA estimates that heat waves in 32 European countries between 1980 and 2000 cost €27 to €70 billion. The damage done over the past 20 years – which included the deadly heat wave of 2003, with 30,000 excess deaths – would almost certainly be higher.

early death

France’s national public health agency, which will cover harsh conditions Over the coming days, heat waves were described as a “mostly invisible and underestimated social burden”.

In France alone, heat waves from 2015 to 2020 cost €22-37 billion in health expenditures, lost welfare, and especially the “intangible costs of premature death”.

low productivity

Heat waves in 2003, 2010, 2015 and 2018 in Europe caused damage totaling 0.3 to 0.5 percent of GDP across the continent, and up to 2 percent of GDP in the southern regions, According to a peer-reviewed study in Nature Communications.

This level of impact could be multiplied by five by 2060 compared to the 1981-2010 baseline without a sharp decline in greenhouse gas emissions The study warned against adaptation measures to high temperatures.

At constant temperatures of around 33°C or 34°C, the average worker “loses 50 percent of his ability to work,” according to the International Labor Organization.

The ICO estimates that by 2030 heat waves could reduce the total number of hours worked globally by more than 2% — the equivalent of 80 million full-time jobs — at a cost of $2.4 trillion, nearly 10 times the 1995 figure.

“Heat stress associated with climate change will reduce outdoor physical work capacity on a global scale,” the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said in its latest synthesis report, noting that in some tropical regions, work may become Outdoors impossible due to turn of the century for 200 to 250 days each year.

drought and agriculture

Both heat waves and droughts pose a major threat to agriculture, and therefore food security.

Long-term drought is agriculture’s worst enemy when it comes to severe weather, but heat waves can cause significant damage, too.

In 2019, a A hot wave It caused a nine percent decline in maize yields across France, and a 10 percent decline in wheat, according to the French Ministry of Agriculture.

The 2012 burn in the United States led to a 13 percent drop in corn production, and a sharp jump in world prices.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, heat waves have a negative impact on livestock and milk production.

Drought makes heat waves hotter but less deadly

more information:
David García-León et al, Current and Projected Regional Economic Effects of Heat Waves in Europe, Nature Communications (2021). DOI: 10.1038 / s41467-021-26050-z

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