The newly released "Killer Summer Heat" report by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), says climate change is literally killing us and could result in more than 150,000 American deaths from excessive heat by the end of the century.
The Washington DC-based council warned that unless policies are put into place to tackle carbon pollution now, pollution elevation will increase the heat-related death toll in the most populated U.S. cities and result in the deaths of more than 150,000 Americans by 2099. And this is only America's top 40 cities, suggests the analysis of peer-reviewed scientific data by the NRDC.
At most risk said the report, are elderly people and young children who face bigger risks than most. The three cities that will feel greatest impact through 2099 it said, are Louisville, KY (19,000 deaths); Detroit (17,900); and Cleveland (16,600).
Dr. Larry Kalkstein, research professor of geography and regional studies at the University of Miami said:
Our research shows that rising temperatures could cause five times the number of 'Excessive Heat Event days' by mid-century and eight-times the number by century's end. These hotter days have a real human cost.
Excessive Heat Events or EHEs said the report, occur when certain weather conditions combine temperature, dew point temperature cloud cover, wind speed and surface atmospheric pressure to create an EHE day. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA):
EHE conditions are defined by summertime weather that is substantially hotter and/or more humid than average for a location at that time of year.
And "EHE conditions says the EPA's Guidebook on Excessive Heat, can increase the incidence of mortality and morbidity in affected populations."
Dan Lashof, director of NRDC's climate and clean air program added:
This is a wake-up call. Climate change has a number of real life-and-death consequences. One of which is that as carbon pollution continues to grow, climate change is only going to increase the number of dangerously hot days each summer, leading to a dramatic increase in the number of lives lost.
The NRDC report suggests that recent events clearly prove that the writing is on the wall. National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) data showed that at least 42 states it said, "saw record daytime highs in the summer of 2011 and 49 states saw record high nighttime temperatures," and furthermore, health impacts were obvious.
Researchers pointed to the 2006 deadly heat wave in California that caused 655 deaths in a two-week period and resulted in 1,620 excess hospitalizations. And Chicago's 1995 record-setting heat wave they said, resulted in a further 700 heat-related deaths.
Lashof believes that policies must be instituted immediately to prevent the health impacts of climate change from getting worse. He explained:
We need to establish a comprehensive program to reduce heat-trapping pollution from all sources, by building on the Environmental Protection Agency's proposals to limit carbon pollution from new power plants and cars.
The NRDC analysis was based on two peer-reviewed studies co-authored by Professor Kalkstein, one was published in the American Meteorological Society's journal Weather, Climate, and Society, and the other published in Natural Hazards.
The EPA plans to hold two public hearings today, on a proposed carbon pollution standard for new power plants. The standard will only apply to future power plants and would help minimize carbon pollution through the deployment of modern technology. The EPA is taking public comment on the proposal through June 25th.
The NRDC called the EPA proposal "a major step toward protecting public health from the consequences of climate change driven by carbon pollution," but added that "pollution from existing power plants, refineries and other sources will need to be addressed as well."
The NRDC is an international nonprofit environmental organization that works to protect natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Livingston, Montana, and Beijing. Its report is available to read online.