New York May Face Thousands of Heat Deaths By 2080 Due to Climate Change

Jun 28, 2016 07:37 AM EDT

New York City is looking at a massive health crisis as a result of rising temperatures. A new study predicts that the number of "hot days" in New York City will triple, which is likely to bring about thousands of heat-related deaths by the year 2080.

The study was published on the 23rd of June in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives. In the paper, a day was counted as "hot" if it reached a temperature above 32 degrees Celsius without dropping. Such high-temperature days would have a deleterious impact on the health of many New Yorkers, leading to deaths caused by respiratory problems, heart troubles, dehydration, and heat exhaustion.

New York City is no stranger to debilitating heat waves that have resulted in fatalities. From the year 2000 up to 2006, the city has seen an average of 600 heat-related deaths occur annually, in numbers provided by the National Center for Health Statistics. But if the journal paper's estimates are correct, that situation is going to worsen considerably in the decades to come. According to the study's calculations, New York City heat deaths are projected to rise to as many as 3,331 fatalities each year.

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Elisaveta Petkova, the paper's lead author, said that the study drew on five different demographic models for the city that relied on past trends. The researchers compiled this information to form projections of excess deaths based on scenarios of lower versus higher greenhouse gas emissions. In the case of high emissions, the results indicated the increase in number of deaths reported above.

Another scenario involved low greenhouse gas emissions, combined with factors such as more people migrating to the city and no urban infrastructure adaptations being made in response to higher temperatures. In that scenario, excess deaths were projected to amount to as many as 1,552 fatalities a year by 2080.

If lower greenhouse gas emissions cannot be achieved, the researchers emphasize that New York City should make infrastructural adaptations to the rise in temperatures, if the city hopes to keep heat-related deaths from increasing catastrophically.

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