The devastating economic toll of severe heat waves

Western Europe is battling the hottest temperature Buckle down for one as a third of Americans on record a heat wave of its own.

With global warming, destructive heat waves are becoming more common – killing people, damaging infrastructure and affecting energy supplies. A growing body of research shows that extreme heat has long-term effects not only on population health but on local economies. With climate change causing heat waves to become more severe and more frequent, here are some of the effects of these temperature shocks.

melting infrastructure

Heat waves in temperate countries such as the United Kingdom can have devastating effects on man-made constructions that are not designed to withstand extreme heat. With less than 5% of homes in the typically cold country having air conditioning, builders are often concerned about retaining heat rather than retaining it.

In Luton, England, a city 30 miles north of London, record-high melt temperatures airstrip, closing flights for several hours. Last year’s scorching heat domes in the Pacific Northwest, another generally temperate region, cracked roads, while low air quality closed a public pool. In Portland, extreme heat caused power outages to melt, causing rail service in the city to be shut down.

Elsewhere, sweltering heat has clogged the railroad’s steel tracks, slowing passengers trains and freight.

Trains in the UK are running late after signs of fire melting at level crossings


strained health system

Heat takes a toll on the human body, rapidly increasing the risk of death from heatstroke or other causes.

According to Georgia Institute of Technology professor Brian Stone, during Europe’s 2003 heat wave, 70,000 people died, setting a grim record for the deadliest climate-related event in a developed country. During the heat dome in the Pacific Northwest last year, 1,000 people died that would not have happened otherwise, and the number of people coming to hospitals with heat-related illnesses increased by 69, said Christie Abbey, a professor at the Center for Health. Health and the global environment at the University of Washington.

“How did you lose years of life?” That said, it is impossible for the families of those who died. Actuaries and government agencies, however, put the value of an American life at around $10 million, bringing the heat wave’s economic toll into the billions even before the impact on health, work production and food systems was taken into account.

The EB said the hospital results could affect an already overtaxed system. A Seattle hospital nearly ran out of snow in its efforts to help patients suffering heatstroke. Another had to close his operating room for several days because he was unable to cool it down enough to perform the surgery safely.

Call for action on climate change amid high temperatures


decrease in production

Even when people survive the worst health effects of summer, it takes a toll on their productivity. A recent study found that extreme summer heat reduced states’ economic output, with states’ GDP dropping 0.25% for every 1 degree Fahrenheit in higher-than-average summer temperatures.

“When it gets too hot, people don’t work out as much,” Abby said. However, the impact is different for different classes of workers, she said.

“People who have a salary will slow down. People who are paid piece by piece have an economic incentive to work, and can continue to work as long as they don’t harm themselves.” ,” He said. This is especially troublesome for outside workers such as agricultural workers, delivery people or construction workers.

Heat can also affect a worker’s future earnings, with studies showing that students learn less in schools on days with higher temperatures and that fetuses exposed to high heat in utero earn less as adults. Is.

decline in agricultural productivity

Crops, like the human body, thrive within a fairly narrow range of temperatures. While a small temperature increase may prompt some plants to produce more, heat over 90 degrees Fahrenheit can cause a sharp drop in yield For staple cereals such as maize, soybeans and cotton.

A recent study estimated the effects of a 2°C increase in global temperature, which is projected to hit the world in the coming decades. With that level of warming, agricultural profitability for the eastern US drops by 60%, found the study by University of Arizona professor Derek Lemoine.

This is doubly problematic when combined with drought, which often accompanies high temperatures. Nearly half of Europe is currently under a drought warning, which the European Commission said could lead to crop loss.

Runaway climate change could have dire economic consequences


Problems for shipping and industry

This week’s heat wave comes amid historically low water levels in Europe’s rivers, which are critically important for freight transport.

Water levels on the Rhine, a major route linking industrial areas in Switzerland, Germany and Denmark, are at their lowest since at least the 1970s, said Cedric Gemehl of Gavekal Research in a note. This means “very low freight traffic, bottlenecks and high delivery charges,” Gemahal wrote. He said a less severe decline in 2018 led to a 15% drop in pharmaceutical and chemical production in the second half of that year.

Less water in the river means less hydroelectric power, which is operating well below its typical levels in France, Italy and Spain, Gemahal said. Similarly for industrial production as well as for nuclear plants in Europe, both rely heavily on river water for cooling.

While each of these issues are potentially manageable in their own right, they are coming on top of current supply shortages and an impending energy crisis, spoiling this year’s outlook.

,[T]The effects of the heat wave are hitting the European economy at its worst, exacerbating existing supply shortages and making Europe’s energy equation even more uncertain,” said Gemahl. “Economically, Europe’s current Hot magic is anything but sunshine.”

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