Why is the heat wave so deadly?

Why is the heat wave so deadly?

Recently, all parts of China have entered the dog days, reaching the hottest time of the year. The United States and Canada on the other side of the Pacific Ocean experienced the highest temperature and heat wave in history at the end of June, which is known as a once-in-a-millennium event.

British Columbia in western Canada experienced extreme high temperatures of 49.5°C, and recorded 500 excess deaths and 180 wildfires. In historical high-temperature heat waves, such as Chicago in 1995, Europe in 2003, and France in 2019, thousands of people died.

Many people may think that human instincts tend to gain advantages and avoid disadvantages. They shrink in a warm room on cold days and hide in a cool place on hot days. You can usually blow fans and use air conditioners. How can the heat and heat kill so many people? Is this related to global warming?

A study published in “The Lancet Planetary Health” on July 1 found that globally, there are more than 5 million deaths related to abnormally high or low temperatures each year, accounting for nearly 10% of all deaths. And with the acceleration of global warming, although the mortality rate due to extremely low temperatures will reduce, but the mortality rate due to unusually high temperatures will increase, thereby increasing the overall mortality rate in the long term.

Why is the heat wave so deadly?

The optimum temperature suitable for human survival is about 18~23°C. If it is too cold or too hot, the human body will feel uncomfortable, even affecting health and life-threatening.

Death caused by high temperature and heat wave is more of a triggering relationship. On the one hand, summer heat waves can affect people’s physical health. The most common ones in daily life are heatstroke or dehydration. In severe cases, people may die, especially those with underlying diseases or weak immunity. On the other hand, abnormal temperature can also affect people’s psychological state. Abnormal temperature, especially high temperature, is related to suicide rate and sleep disturbance.

Even if it is the same heat wave, research shows that the heat wave in early summer increases the risk of death more than the subsequent heat wave, which means that the human body needs a relatively slow process of adaptation.

For example, the reason why many people died in the 2003 European heat wave was largely because the locals didn’t need air conditioning in the summer when they were accustomed to, so that when the high temperature hits, there is no quick cooling method. This is a bit similar to the coldest place in the winter in China, not the heated north, but the Yangtze River Delta with indoor and outdoor temperatures.

However, even in the United States, where everyone has air conditioners, everyone turns on air conditioners in the heat wave, which has triggered a crisis in the city’s electricity supply. Some time ago, New York City rarely used the Amber alarm to remind citizens to reduce electricity consumption as much as possible, limit the use of air conditioners, and alleviate the lack of electricity supply during the high temperature period.

Therefore, in the face of abnormal temperature, people often do not have no preventive measures, but preventive measures are designed for low-frequency extreme weather. When abnormal weather occurs more and more frequently, the old response ideas are often caught off guard.

Climate warming makes the problem worse

Since 1880, the average surface temperature of the earth has risen at a rate of 0.07°C every 10 years. Since the 1990s, the warming rate has reached 0.26°C every 10 years, more than three times the original rate.

As global warming continues to accelerate, extreme weather events such as heat waves and cold waves appear with unprecedented frequency and intensity, and the health and survival of human beings exposed to extreme temperatures will be affected.

This latest study by The Lancet shows that the population of the world’s five continents, regardless of race, age, and socioeconomic status, are all under the threat of abnormal temperature. The study used meteorological data from more than 700 stations in 43 countries from 2000 to 2019, and extrapolated the mortality rate on a global scale after modeling. The results show that globally, there are more than 5 million deaths related to abnormally high or low temperatures each year, accounting for 9.43% of all deaths, of which about 90% are related to cold and 10% are related to heat.

Why is the heat wave so deadly?

(A) Total annual excess deaths, (B) Annual excess deaths related to cold, (C) Annual excess deaths related to heat. |Source: [1]

Since abnormally low temperatures are more deadly than abnormally high temperatures, as the world gradually warms, the probability of low-temperature weather continues to decline, which will make a turning point in the impact of climate warming on mortality-in the short term, climate warming will reduce temperature abnormalities The mortality rate will increase in the long run.

For example, originally there are 10 particularly cold days a year, 5 particularly hot days, 10 more people will die in cold weather, 5 more people will die in hot weather, then 125 more people will die if the temperature is abnormal this year. . Now the global warming has reduced the number of particularly cold days to 5 days and the number of particularly hot days to 10 days. In this way, 100 people will die a year due to abnormal temperature, which seems to be less than before. But don’t worry, according to the current number of ways of heating up, the cold days may only be one day after a few years, but the hot days have become 25 days, so 135 more people will die a year, more than before.

This study believes that low-temperature-related deaths are approximately twice as high as high-temperature-related deaths, while other studies suggest that low-temperature-related deaths may be 10 times the high temperature. In any case, the trend that global warming will increase mortality in the long run remains unchanged.

How to survive better in a warming world?

Abnormal weather substantially increases the overall cost of living and potential risks.

Heavy rains in arid areas will overwhelm the municipal water supply and drainage system at one time, while continuous drought in humid areas may cause some crops to fail. The probability of natural fires under heat waves will also increase. Now, forest fires in California, USA, have to burn for a few days almost every summer. For people living on the seashore, the hurricane once a year and three times a year have completely different requirements for the life of building materials, salt and moisture, and many places where people can live are likely to be no longer livable due to climate change.

Although humans are warm-blooded animals, they can tolerate a certain range of outside temperature changes, but if they change too much, they can’t bear it, not necessarily for a while, but for a long time.

So, in a world where extreme weather will invade from time to time, how can mankind survive better? This naturally requires a full range of efforts. Agriculture needs to repair water conservancy projects to balance buffer water consumption, manufacturing needs to develop high temperature resistant materials, and urban planning needs to be adjusted for extreme weather.

For example, the popular sponge city in recent years is an urban planning concept. The sponge city is like a sponge. It can “absorb water” during precipitation, and can “squeeze” out the collected rainwater for use, mainly to prevent abnormal precipitation. In addition, the current urban transportation planning is different from the previous pursuit of skyscrapers and viaducts. It is more about “dwelling into the ground rather than ascending to the sky”. After all, the underground temperature is more controllable. Urban electricity consumption should also cope with sudden power consumption peaks and provide more public places to enjoy the coolness.

However, it costs money to deal with these issues. Now many cities are beginning to issue catastrophe bonds, using relatively high interest rates to attract investment. If you encounter extreme weather, you can use this money for disaster relief at a time. Of course, you hold the funds at this time. Bonds become waste paper, a true explanation of high risks and high returns. Similarly, there is catastrophe insurance, which can reduce the impact of short-term extreme weather through a wider range of risk sharing methods, and also increase the cost of living for everyone in disguise. ——Of course, if our emission reduction measures are in place, it will also reduce the cost of living for future generations.

For individuals, fortunately, weather forecasts are generally more accurate now. Once extreme weather strikes, you can have time to prepare, or take a transport to another city, or avoid outdoor activities. In addition, additional coatings may be added to existing residences to increase reflectivity and resist changes in ambient temperature.

The real trouble is the climate refugees. When the hometown is no longer suitable for living, they can only choose to wander. For example, the Pacific island country Tuvalu intends to relocate to New Zealand. For island countries, sea level rise can also be used to build breakwaters, and the erosion of freshwater sources by seawater is almost an unsolvable problem.

Of course, if the earth can’t hold it anymore, emigration to outer space may be the ultimate destination of civilization.

Reference

[1]https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanplh/article/PIIS2542-5196(21)00081-4/fulltext

[2]https://www.nature.com/articles/s41558-021-01058-x

[3]https://cosmosmagazine.com/earth/climate/surge-in-climate-related-deaths-predicted/

[4]https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/article/heat-related-deaths-attributed-to-climate-change

[5]https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-021-01869-0

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