Updated projections of UK heat-related mortality using policy-relevant global warming levels and socio-economic scenarios

Katie Jenkins, Alan Kennedy-Asser, Oliver Andrews, Y. T. Eunice Lo

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Abstract

High temperatures and heatwaves are associated with significant impacts on human health. With continued global temperature increases, extreme thresholds relevant to health will be exceeded more frequently. This study provides an updated spatial analysis of heat-related mortality for the UK, using the UK Climate Projections (UKCP18) at 1.5 to 4°C global warming levels, and embedding population and demographic data from the recently released UK Shared Socioeconomic Pathways (UK-SSPs). Climate change will lead to an increase in heat-related mortality in the future, exacerbated by increased exposure due to increasing population. We find an increase from ~1,400 average annual deaths in the near-past (1990-2019) (95% CI: 1299 to 1486), to ~2,500 (2304 to 2794), ~3,700 (3280 to 4214), ~8,200 (7376 to 9072) and >18,000 (16,690 to 20,394) average annual deaths at 1.5, 2, 3 and 4°C respectively (assuming no adaptation). This is considered a high-end estimate due to the assumption of high population growth (UK-SSP5). Older populations are shown to be most vulnerable. A large proportion of heat-related deaths (76% (74 to 79%) with 1.5°C global warming) are attributed to more moderate (1-5°C) increases above regional temperature thresholds as opposed to extremes. Our results provide a timely update that can serve as a first step to supporting future UK climate policy and risk assessments. Future research considering nonlinearity in the health response to heat exposure is vital.
Original languageEnglish
Article number114036
JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
Volume17
Issue number11
Early online date24 Oct 2022
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 4 Nov 2022

Keywords

  • heat
  • mortality
  • Climate Change

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