Heat-Related Mortality in a Warming Climate: Projections for 12 U.S. Cities
International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Heat is among the deadliest weather-related phenomena in the United States, and the number of heat-related deaths may increase under a changing climate, particularly in urban areas. Regional adaptation planning is unfortunately often limited by the lack of quantitative information on potential future health responses. This study presents an assessment of the future impacts of climate change on heat-related mortality in 12 cities using 16 global climate models, driven by two scenarios of greenhouse gas emissions. Although the magnitude of the projected heat effects was found to differ across time, cities, climate models and greenhouse pollution emissions scenarios, climate change was projected to result in increases in heat-related fatalities over time throughout the 21st century in all of the 12 cities included in this study. The increase was more substantial under the high emission pathway, highlighting the potential benefits to public health of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Nearly 200,000 heat-related deaths are projected to occur in the 12 cities by the end of the century due to climate warming, over 22,000 of which could be avoided if we follow a low GHG emission pathway. The presented estimates can be of value to local decision makers and stakeholders interested in developing strategies to reduce these impacts and building climate change resilience.