Experts Say Climate Change Will Triple Heat Related Deaths in the U.S.

During the typical summer in the United States, there are around 1,332 heat-related deaths. According to a new report from the Natural Resources Defense Council, that number will rise to 4,608 by the end of the century. In total, the report projects that the U.S. can expect 150,000 deaths due to excessive heat by 2100.

The report is based on research that was recently published in the journal Weather, Climate and Society which looked at the impact that hotter days and nights would have on heat related deaths.

Scientists anticipate temperatures to rise 4 to 11 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century due to human-induced climate change. That means the number of days that the temperature presents a threat to health will increase. The increased will be felt most in cities where glass and asphalt amplify the heat, and the more dense population leaves people more vulnerable. Researchers predict that 37 of 40 cities studied will see increases in heat related deaths.

The three hardest hit cities will be Louisville, Detroit and Cleveland. The average number of heat related deaths in Louisville was 39 per summer from 1975 to 2004. By mid-century, that figure is expected to rise to 257 deaths per summer, and in 2100 should be around 376 per summer. That wold be a total of 18,988 more deaths than would occur without climate change. Detroit would see an additional 17,877 deaths, while Cleveland would see another 16,625 deaths.

The most affected cities are located in the Midwest and Northeast. Here the weather is more variable, and the populations are not adapted to extreme heat. In comparison, Miami averages zero heat-related deaths, and researchers expect this to continue because while the temperature is hot, it is relatively stable and air conditioning is widely available.