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Limiting climate change to 2⁰ Celsius in U.S cities could prevent thousands of heat-related deaths

A study published in Science Advances is the first to specifically assess the potential health benefits of limiting the current trajectory of 3°C warming, if the U.S achieves its climate change emission reduction targets, to the actual warming targets of 2°C and 1.5°C set in the Paris Agreement. 

The study was led by the University of Bristol, with LSHTM co-authors Dr Ana Vicedo-Cabrera and Dr Antonio Gasparrini.

Commenting on the findings, Dr. Ana Vicedo-Cabrera said:

"In the 15 US cities assessed, the study estimates that by meeting the 2°C and 1.5°C threshold rather than 3°C, all studied cities could experience a significant reduction in the number of hot days.

"If global warming was limited to 2°C instead of 3°C above pre-industrial levels, heat-related mortality is estimated to reduce in all of the cities studied, except for Atlanta, ranging from 0.8% in Chicago to 2.3% in Philadelphia.

"Limiting warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels is estimated to have the greater impact of reducing heat-related mortality by 3.1%.

"Achieving the 2°C threshold could avoid between 70-1,980 annual heat-related deaths per city during a very extreme event, while 110-2,720 deaths would be avoided in a 1.5 °C warmer world.

"The results obtained in this study can greatly contribute to the discussions on mitigation strategies. Larger studies covering different regions in the world are needed to provide a more comprehensive picture on the potential benefits achieved under specific mitigation scenarios. 

LSHTM has recently launched a new Centre on Climate Change and Planetary Health which aims to take a major step in identifying solutions to the impact of environmental change on human health. Building on more than 25 years of LSHTM environment-health research, the Centre will advance research across several major themes that include understanding the direct and indirect effects of environmental change on public health, identifying the potential co-benefits to public health of carefully-designed climate-mitigation actions, and developing innovative solutions to enable populations to adapt healthily to future environmental change.