Last updated October 10, 2018

Twenty-Seven Ways a Heat Wave Can Kill You: Deadly Heat in the Era of Climate Change

  • States that heat waves, sporadic events of extreme heat, pose a threat to human life
  • States that deaths in excess of 70 000 people during the 2003 European heat wave, 10 000 people during the 2010 Russian heat wave, and high death tolls from numerous other heat waves are staggering demonstrations that extreme climatic conditions are already exceeding human thermoregulatory capacit
  • States that the area of the planet experiencing heat wave conditions similar to those that have killed people is expanding and is currently inhabited by ≈30% of the world’s human population
  • Carries out a systematic synthesis of deadly heat physiological pathways to make the point that the human body is sensitive to heat and that heat waves can harm anyone (even the young and healthy) in ways that extend beyond cardiovascular diseases
  • Finds that by 2100, under current emission of greenhouse gasses, 3 of 4 people in the world will be exposed to deadly heat conditions every year, with a higher occurrence of these conditions in intertropical areas
  • States that in the last decade, there has been >2300% increase in the loss of human life from heat waves as a result of less than ≈1°C warming
  • Suggests that only the rapid reduction of greenhouse gases paired with large economic investment in adaptation will help us escape the health risks of heat waves