Over 20,000 died in western Europe’s summer heatwaves, figures show

The Guardian reports that more than 20,000 people died across western Europe in this summer’s heatwaves, in temperatures that would have been virtually impossible without climate breakdown, figures show.

Analysis of excess deaths, the difference between the number of deaths that happened and those expected based on historical trends, reveals the threats posed by climate change-induced global heating, scientists said.

During the summer heatwaves, temperatures exceeded 40°C in London, areas in south-west France reached 42°C and Seville and Córdoba in Spain set records of 44°C. Analysis from the World Weather Attribution group of scientists found that such high temperatures would have been “virtually impossible” without the climate crisis.

In England and Wales, 3,271 excess deaths were recorded between 1 June and 7 September, according to the Office for National Statistics – 6.2% higher than the five-year average.

In France, there were 10,420 excess deaths reported during the summer months, according to data released by Santé Publique France, the government health agency.

One in four of these deaths, or 2,816, happened during one of the three intense heatwaves that hit the country. The excess deaths were 20% higher in regions where extreme temperature red alerts had been issued.

In Spain, the state-backed Carlos III Health Institute estimates there were 4,655 heat-attributable deaths between June and August.

The Robert Koch Institute, the German government health agency, estimates 4,500 people died in the country during the summer months specifically due to extreme temperatures.

Dr Friederike Otto, a senior lecturer in climate science at the Grantham Institute for Climate Change and the Environment, Imperial College London, said: “Heatwaves are one of the biggest threats posed by climate change. High temperatures are responsible for thousands of deaths across the world every year, many of which go underreported. “Despite this overwhelming evidence, there is still little public awareness of the dangers that extreme temperatures present to human health.”

The summer of 2022 was the hottest on record, according to the EU’s Copernicus climate change service.


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