Along with our prsent experience of August heat in June comes news from the Centers for Disease Control and others that as climate change continues, we can expect big jumps in the number of “killer heat” days, and, consequently, the number of heat-related deaths.
Notice I said “as climate change continues,” because climate change is certainly already well underway. In fact there’s a general consensus among everyone (everyone not in denial, that is) that our chance to avoid a range of ecological “tipping points” is already well past; we just don’t know yet how catastrophic the impacts will be.
One certain impact, though, is more people – especially the old, the very young, the sick, and the poor – dying from heat. Already about 700 per year in the U.S. die from excessive heat – more than those killed by hurricanes, tornados, floods and earthquakes combined (though we may look for deaths from the first three to shoot up as well, due to climate-related increases in frequency and severity).
The CDC projects the number of heat-related deaths to rise to as high as 5000 by the year 2050. By then what we think of now as oppressive summer heat may seem “cool” by comparison.