Over the last decade, global greenhouse gas emissions have reached unprecedented levels in human history, resulting in frequent instances of extreme heat events across the world. The sweltering weather raises the body’s core temperature and heartbeat rates, giving rise to heat stroke, respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, and even death.
Dr. Zhang Guwei from the Institute of Urban Meteorology, CMA, Beijing (IUM), along with researchers from the Chinese Academy of Meteorological Sciences and the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, gauged the importance of China's climate adaptation by quantifying the maximum heat-related risks that could be mitigated through emission reduction.
According to the research findings, the climate warming caused by human emissions in the future will markedly escalate heat-related risks in China, emerging as a primary contributor to heat-related mortality within the upcoming two to four decades. If human-induced emissions were entirely eradicated in the future, it is projected that China's heat-related mortality rate could decline by 48%-72%, potentially averting tens of thousands of heat-related deaths each year.
Notably, the enduring impact of historical global warming has brought about some short-term irreversibilities, leading to a similar count of heat-related death across high, medium, and low emission scenarios in China over the last two decades. This underscores the challenge of achieving immediate and substantial mitigation of heat-related risks through current emissions reduction measures. Particularly in the Northwest and South China regions, the health risks associated with high temperatures may remain elevated in the future, even if the warming is not driven by human emissions, possibly surpassing current levels. Therefore, addressing climate change requires not only unwavering carbon emission reduction but also the pressing need to strategically build more healthcare infrastructure tailored to each region, thus mitigating potential heat-related risks.
Changing ratios of future heat deaths versus the current level.
The findings of this research offer comprehensive and up-to-date forecasts for evaluating heat-related health risks in China. These forecasts can be used for government strategic planning and determining the priority of health infrastructure needs, facilitating effective adaptation to global warming and future population growth.
Papaer：Zhang, G., Sun, Z., Han, L. et al. Avoidable heat-related mortality in China during the 21st century. npj Clim Atmos Sci 6, 81 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41612-023-00404-4