Summer heatwaves in France, Germany, Spain and Britain resulted in more than 20,000 “excessive” deaths, a report compiling official figures said on Thursday.
Temperatures reached nearly 40 degrees Celsius or more from Paris to London in 2022, and climate scientists at the World Weather Attribution Group noted that such high temperatures would have been “virtually impossible” without climate change.
A heat wave in 2003 caused more than 70,000 deaths across Europe, mostly in France, prompting many countries to implement measures such as early warning systems, telling people to check on others and opening air-conditioned schools.
These and related action plans may have mitigated some of the effects of heatwaves in 2022, but the death toll was still “higher than expected,” said Chloe Brimicombe, a heatwave researcher at the University of Graz in Austria.
“I consider this to be the most devastating heatwave since 2003,” she told Reuters.
Because authorities don’t attribute most deaths directly to the heat, statisticians use the excess formula to provide an estimate by examining how many more people than expected died in a given period compared to a historical baseline.
Heat can be deadly by triggering heat stroke, which damages the brain, kidneys and other organs, but can also trigger other conditions such as a heart attack or breathing problems.
The World Meteorological Organization said this month that Europe had warmed more than twice as much as the rest of the world over the past three decades, while the Copernicus Climate Change Service said the summer of 2022 was the hottest on record.
France reported about half of the summer’s excessive deaths in western Europe, with a total of 10,420 deaths.
Excess deaths hit 3,271 in England and Wales in the summer, Britain’s Office of National Statistics reported.
Spain recorded 4,655 heat-related deaths between June and August, while the German health agency reported 4,500. – Reuters