Study: Deadly Heat Will Threaten Majority Of Humankind By 2100

By 2100, almost half of the world will be threatened by deadly heat waves.

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Credit: Stefan Wernli

Currently, heat wave episodes are only experienced with frequency in tropical latitudes. Yet, according to a new study, these locations would expand to both northern and southern areas of the globe.

The study, lead by Camilo Mora from the University of Hawaii, was published in Natural Climate Change journal. The research examines 1,949 deadly heat waves since 1980, from all over the world. The objective was to identify the highest temperatures and establish a trend.

The researchers found out that nowadays, one in three people endure the highest heat waves for a period of 20 days per year. In the near future, this percentage will severely increase. By 2100, three out of four people will experience these extreme temperatures.

Heat directly affects the human’s body internal temperature. A normal body temperature can vary between 98.6 and 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit (37 to 38 degrees Celsius). If the temperatures exceed 104 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degrees Celsius), all internal and important cellular systems begin to fail, requiring immediate medical intervention or else death will soon follow.

However, dangerous heat waves, as are expected in the future, are currently far more common than most people know. In this context, Mora refers to the European heat waves that killed 70,000 people in 2003. He impressed, “That’s more than 20 times the number of people who died in the September 11 attacks”.

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Desert near Barreales lake, Neuquén region, Argentina. Credit: Simona Cerrato

What’s even more alarming is that taking action on the matter and reducing greenhouse gases would have a minimal effect. Even if these gases are considerably and aggressively reduced, up to 48% of the world population will still experience murderous heat waves by the end of the century.

Mora also speaks about the reckless attitude of mankind in recent decades. He said that “for heatwaves, our options are now between bad or terrible”. If pollution continues the way it has been, by 2100 the whole southern region of United States will experience long devastating summers under high and lethal temperatures.

Countries like India are already suffering the consequences, being affected by increasing heat waves. These extreme temperatures don’t only affect the population, but also crops and electricity, caused by desertification and power blackouts.

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