WASHINGTON - A new study shows that deaths that result from extreme weather in Europe could increase 50 times by the end of the century if the effects of global warming are not curbed.
In the study published Saturday by The Lancet Planetary Health journal, scientists say weather-related disasters could kill more than 152,000 people a year by 2100, up from 3,000 per year recently. The researchers say the toll could be especially high in southern Europe.
“Unless global warming is curbed as a matter of urgency and appropriate adaptation measures are taken, about 350 million Europeans could be exposed to harmful climate extremes on an annual basis by the end of this century,” the report said.
The study’s predictions are based on an assumption that there is no reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and that no improvements take place to curb the effects of climate change.
The team of scientists looked at the most harmful weather-related disasters — heat waves, cold snaps, wildfires, droughts, floods and windstorms — across the European Union, plus Switzerland, Norway and Iceland. They looked at records of weather-related events in those countries for a 30-year stretch and compared them with projections for population growth and future weather disasters.
Heat will be deadliest
Their findings predicted that heat waves would be the most lethal weather disasters, causing 99 percent of all future weather-related deaths in Europe. The researchers said deaths from coastal flooding would also increase sharply, from six deaths per year at the beginning of this century to 233 a year by the end of it.
“Climate change is one of the biggest global threats to human health of the 21st century, and its peril to society will be increasingly connected to weather-driven hazards,” said Giovanni Forzieri of the European Commission Joint Research Center in Italy, who co-led the study.