Author: Jonathan Chambers

Year: 2020

Published in: Climatic Change

Heatwaves have become more frequent and intense due to anthropogenic global warming and have serious and potentially life-threatening impacts on human health, particularly for people over 65 years old. While a range of studies examine heatwave exposures, few cover the whole globe and very few cover key areas in Africa, South America, and East Asia. By using global gridded climate reanalysis, population, and demographic data, this work analyses trends in change in exposure of vulnerable populations to heatwaves, providing global and per-country aggregate statistics. The difference between the global mean of heatwave indexes and the mean weighted by vulnerable population found that these populations are experiencing up to five times the number of heatwave days relative to the global average. The total exposures, measured in person-days of heatwave, highlight the combined effect of increased heatwaves and aging populations. In China and India, heatwave exposure increased by an average of 508 million person-days per year in the last decade. Mapping of changes per country highlighted significant exposure increases, particularly in the Middle East and in South East Asia. Major disparities were found between the heatwave exposures, country income group, and country health system capacity, thus highlighting the significant inequalities in global warming impacts and response capacities with respect to health across countries. It is therefore of prime importance that health development and response are coordinated with climate change mitigation and adaptation work.

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