Summer heat waves can transform East Coast cities likes New York and Washington, DC, into humid, odiferous swamps of misery and stagnation. But with climate change conspiring toward increasingly hotter summers, New York and other towns won’t just be more unpleasant; they’ll be deadlier.
As The Guardian reported:
New York city could experience up to 22% more deaths from extreme summertime heat in the coming decade under global warming, according to a study of the impact of climate trends.
The higher deaths will be partially offset by a reduction in deaths due to the milder winters predicted in Manhattan.
Overall, however, the net effect of the new temperature norms under climate change would be to increase weather-related deaths in New York city by up to 6.2% a year by the 2020s, according to the scientists.
Those numbers, published in a study in Nature Climate Change, get even scarier when looked at over the long term. Assuming there’s little change to our carbon emissions, "heatwave deaths in New York city could rise by as much as 91% on 1980s levels by the 2080s."
Part of the problem is that concrete-filled, treeless urban areas get even hotter than non-urbanized zones on account of the urban heat island effect. Another problem is the high concentration of the elderly, disabled, and poor in urban areas, who may not have air conditioning. "How can we reach out to people who are stuck in their apartments trying to ride out the events? We have to try to target vulnerable people," Columbia University professor and study author Patrick Kinney, told the paper.