Climate change increases risk of death from heart disease, study says

Let’s not lock ourselves in a carbon-intensive future, write Michèle Rivasi and Claude Turmes. The consequences are clear. [S.I.B. Fotos/Flickr]

High temperatures, heat waves and extreme temperature fluctuations pose an ever-increasing threat to the global population, with a recent study by the German Weather Service indicating higher health risks. EURACTIV Germany reports.

Longer and more intense periods of heat are a serious burden to the cardiovascular system. Such conditions are proven to lead to more deaths, especially among the elderly or people who suffer from certain chronic illnesses, according to a report by the German Weather Service (DWD) for the Federal Environment Agency (UBA).

The study indicates heat waves can increase the risk of death among those suffering from a heart condition by up to 15%.

“Days with rapid temperature changes compared to the previous day, or stronger fluctuations in temperature on the same day correlate with a higher burden to health. For this reason, it is important that we adjust to climate change so that we can keep its health-related consequences at a minimum,” said UBA President Maria Krautzberger.

The study’s authors investigated the influence climate change has on health based on 19 regional climate models for Germany. Results showed the burden from rising temperatures will more than double by the end of the 21st century while the burden due to lower temperatures is more likely to decrease.

>>Read: German Energiewende policy jeopardises EU climate efforts

This prognosis still applies, the Federal Environment Ministry warned, even if the EU accomplishes its ambitious target to limit the average global temperature to less than 2°C above pre-industrial levels.

Western and southern Germany especially at risk

Prevalence, duration and intensity of heat waves will increase considerably, the study predicts. Rapid temperature changes from one day to the next and temperature fluctuations within a single day will become more common.

This will affect Germany’s south and west most severely, according to the researchers.

“If we are not able to adjust, by the end of the century this could increase heat-related death due to coronary heart diseases by three- to fivefold,” said Paul Becker, Vice President of the German Weather Service.

In 2008, the German government initiated the German Adaptation Strategy (DAS) to adjust to the effects of climate change and a corresponding action plan. The measure was meant to minimize the effects of expected changes in the climate.

Other experts also emphasised the importance of taking appropriate measures. In June, an international group of researchers sounded the alarm in their report for The Lancet. The authors warned that climate change could destroy decade-long efforts in the areas of health and development cooperation if politicians do not come up with an ambitious action plan soon enough.

Climate change is expected to cause 250,000 additional deaths per year between 2030 and 2050, affecting the poorest countries with weak health care systems.

>> Read: Climate change rivals Ebola at World Health Summit

World leaders will meet in Paris this November to try and secure a legally binding deal to keep global warming below two degrees.

Today's report in The Lancet, a leading medical journal, gives leaders the evidence they need to support an ambitious agreement that will also benefit public health.


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