More than 20,000 “excess” deaths may have been caused by summer heat waves in France, Germany, Spain and Britain, a report compiling official figures said on Thursday.
Temperatures reached or exceeded 40 degrees Celsius in Paris and London in 2022, and climatologists from the World Weather Attribution group found that such high temperatures would have been “virtually impossible” without climate change, reports a local Arabic daily quoting Reuters.
A heat wave in 2003 caused more than 70,000 excess deaths across Europe, especially in France. This has prompted many countries to introduce measures such as early warning systems, requiring people to check-in, and opening air-conditioned schools.
Such measures and related action plans may have mitigated some of the impact of heat waves in 2022, but the number of deaths is still “higher than expected,” said Chloe Primikumbe, a heatwave researcher at the University of Graz in Austria. “I see this as the most intense heat wave since 2003,” she said.
Because the authorities do not attribute most deaths directly to heat, statisticians use the “excess” formula to give an estimate, by examining how many more people died in a given period than would be expected compared to a historical baseline.
Heat can kill a person through heat stroke that damages the brain, kidneys and other organs, but it can also lead to other complications such as a heart attack or breathing problems.
The World Meteorological Organization said this month that temperatures in Europe have risen more than twice as much as in 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 accounted for about half of the extra summer deaths in Western Europe, recording 10,420 deaths in total. The British Office for National Statistics recorded 3,271 deaths in England and Wales during the summer. Spain also recorded 4,655 heat-related deaths between June and August, and the German Health Agency recorded 4,500 deaths.