Some 90,000 Europeans could die every year due to extreme heat in a scenario of 3°C global warming by the end of the century.
That’s according to a new study released this week by the European Environmental Agency that looked at the health impacts of climate change and urged countries to prepare their health systems for a warming planet.
Prolonged heat waves and “tropical nights” – where temperatures are above 20°C – are expected to increase substantially as temperatures rise due to greenhouse gas emissions.
“The greatest direct climate-related threat to human health in Europe is heat, and the large number of excess deaths attributable to extremely high temperatures and prolonged heatwaves during the summer of 2022 is a case in point,” the European Environmental Agency said in its report.
“Heat-related mortality has been increasing across Europe since the beginning of the 21st century, particularly in southern Europe.”
Europeans are particularly vulnerable to extreme heat as the population is ageing and older individuals are most at risk from heat.
The share of people aged 65 years are older is expected to increase by 11 percentage points, from 20% of the population at the start of 2018 to 31% by 2100, based on Eurostat projections from 2019.
Cardiovascular disease and diabetes are expected to increase in the population, making people vulnerable to heat exposure.
Climate change is also leading to an increase in disease-carrying mosquitoes and ticks which is likely to lead to more infection outbreaks, the report said.
The EU’s environment agency says health systems need to be prepared for this future.