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Moderate Warming Would Be Beneficial, Even With More Heatwaves

Levi Winchester, Daily Express
For every person who may die as a result of additional heat in the summer, ten people will be saved by rising temperatures in the winter.

The likelihood of extreme heatwaves, such as the one in 2003 which led to tens of thousands of deaths across Europe, was previously thought to be once in every 1,000 years.

But now, thanks to warming temperatures, this figure has risen tenfold to around one in a century, a new study released by the Met Office today has found.

Even more shockingly, by the 2040s, such extreme temperatures could be set to increase in regularity to every other year if greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise.

However Dr Benny Peiser, from the Global Warming Policy Forum, said the results of this study should be taken with a “large pinch of salt” because scientists can not be certain of future temperatures.

And he added that even if temperatures were to rise and cause more frequent extreme heatwaves, the overall consequences would in fact be helpful to Britain.

“For the time being, temperatures aren’t rising and models predicted that they would be rising,” he said.

“We don’t know what the temperature will be in 50 years or 100 years, but if temperatures were to increase, the health benefits in Britain on average would be beneficial.

He explains: “For every person who may die as a result of additional heat in the summer, ten people will be saved by rising temperatures in the winter.

“In other words, for 2,000 people dying as a result of a heatwave, 20,000 people in the winter will be saved as a result of one or two degree warming.”

He said this is due to populations being able to “swiftly adapt to rising temperatures”.

“For example, in south east England summer temperatures have risen by at least one degree but the heat-related mortality hasn’t risen at all,” he added.”

So, the overall benefits of moderate warming are overwhelming.”

The study released by the Met Office, published in the Nature Climate Change journal, is an update of research carried out in 2004 on the extreme heatwave from the previous year.The initial research found the chances of the heatwave happening had at least doubled as a result of human activity which affected the climate, such as burning fossil fuels.

As well as its suggestions on extreme heatwaves, the new study also found that exceptionally warm summers that were once expected to occur twice a century in the early 2000s, are now likely to happen twice a decade.

Despite a slowdown in rising global temperatures since the late 1990s, the new study found summer temperatures in central and Mediterranean Europe affected by the 2003 heatwave had increased by 0.81C between the 1990s and today.

The rises have increased the chance of summer heatwaves, defined as having temperatures of 1.6C above the long-term average, and extreme hot weather events such as the summer of 2003, which was 2.3C above the 1961 to 1990 average.

Dr Nikos Christidis, lead author of the new paper, said: “Extremely warm summers that would occur twice a century in the early 2000s are now expected to happen twice a decade.

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see also: 

The Impact of Global Warming on Health and Mortality

Death in heat waves

Is Global Warming The Number One Threat To Humanity?