Extreme Heat from Climate Change Linked to the Early Death of 1,500 Swedes

10/23/2013 07:13

Climate ChangeA research team in Sweden contends that climate change over the last 30 years has resulted in the premature deaths of 300 people in the capital city Stockholm and about 1,500 premature deaths in the entire country.

Writing in the journal Nature Climate Change, the researchers state that global warming does not only equate to increased temperatures, but also an increase in the intensity and duration of heat waves.

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Daniel Oudin Åström, a Ph.D. student at Umeå University, and his colleagues examined the extent to which mortality was linked to extreme temperatures in Stockholm between the years 1980 and 2009. In order to more clearly assess what could be considered an extreme temperature, the records were compared against climate data for the years 1900 to 1929.

The researchers contend that the number of periods of extremely high temperaters in Stockholm increased signigicantly between 1980 and 2009 and that the associated heat waves led 300 people to an early death.

"Mortality associated with extreme heat during the relevant period was doubled, compared to if we had not had some climate change," Åström said. "Furthermore, we saw that even though the winters have become milder, extremely cold periods occurred more often, which also contributed to a small increase in mortality during the winter."

Åström admitted that 300 premature deaths in three decades is not a huge number, but he noted the figure is for Stockholm alone and that Sweden as a whole likely saw 1,500 extra deaths due to climate change in the last 30 years.

Additionally, the researchers only examined mortality in regard to extreme temperatures. The number of premature deaths caused by less extreme temperatures were not calculated.

Åström noted a resistance to change when it comes to the attitudes of Swedes and climate change.

"The study findings do not suggest any adaptation of the Swedes when it comes to confronting the increasingly warmer climate, such as increased use of air conditioning in elderly housing," Åström said. "It is probably because there is relatively little knowledge in regards to increased temperatures and heat waves on health."  NWN

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