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More back-to-back heat waves will come with climate change

Published on May 21, 2019

Traffic on the 101 Freeway backs up during a 2015 heat wave.
Traffic on the 101 Freeway backs up during a 2015 heat wave. Image Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times

Here’s another health danger climate change will deliver in the coming years: New research warns that back-to-back heat waves that go on for days will become more common as the planet warms.

The elderly and the poor will be the least prepared to weather this threat, the investigators noted. But hospital ERs and emergency service providers will also be vulnerable to the public health havoc that such “compound heat waves” will likely inflict.

“Global warming and heat wave changes through 2050 are essentially locked in,” Jane Wilson Baldwin (Princeton Environmental Institute) said. And that means adaptation is key, “such as increased AC and improved building ventilation; staying in shady, cool places and drinking more water; [and] hospital wards preparing for potentially more frequent heat stress victims.”

The problem is that “this adaptation is likely to be relatively easy for rich countries and people, and much harder for the poor and otherwise socioeconomically underprivileged, who already suffer the most from heat waves in the present,” Baldwin explained.

Kristie Ebi is a professor of Global Health and Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences, and director of the Center for Health and the Global Environment at the University of Washington in Seattle. She agreed that going forward, “individuals and communities need to be better prepared to manage temperatures outside the range of what we consider normal.

“The greenhouse gases in the atmosphere will increase the number and intensity of heat waves over the next couple of decades,” Ebi said.

“Based on the current number of illnesses and deaths during heat waves,” Ebi added, “it is reasonable to assume the numbers would increase with more compound heat waves, if additional actions to increase awareness and preparedness are not taken.”


Continue reading at HealthDay.

Originally written by Alan Mozes for HealthDay.
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