Study identifies underprepared regions most at risk from scorching temperatures

A recent study has brought to light the regions in the world that are least prepared to face the devastating consequences of scorching temperatures. Published in Nature Communications, the research, led by the University of Bristol, has identified certain regions, such as Afghanistan, Papua New Guinea, and Central America, as being most at risk due to a combination of unprecedented heat extremes and socioeconomic vulnerability. As adaptation measures are often introduced only after the event, countries yet to experience the most intense heat waves are especially susceptible. Additionally, a high chance of record-breaking temperatures, growing populations, and limited health care and energy provision further increases the risks. The study also highlights Beijing and Central Europe as being on the list of hotspots. In the event of record-breaking heat waves in these densely populated regions, millions of people could be adversely affected.

The researchers have called for policymakers in hotspot regions to consider relevant action plans to reduce the risk of deaths and associated harms from climate extremes. The study used extreme value statistics and large data sets from climate models and observations to pinpoint the regions globally where temperature records are most likely to be broken soonest and the communities consequently in greatest danger of experiencing extreme heat.

The researchers also cautioned that statistically implausible extremes could happen anywhere and that such record-smashing events could lead to tens of thousands of heat-related deaths. The study underscores the need for governments worldwide to be prepared for the impact of climate change, which is causing an increase in the frequency, intensity, and duration of heat waves that have the potential to lead to thousands more excess deaths globally. Understanding where society may not be ready for climate extremes can help prioritize mitigation in the most vulnerable regions. In recognition of the dangerous consequences of climate change, evidenced by the work of its climate experts, the University of Bristol became the first UK university to declare a climate emergency in 2019.

Source: University of Bristol

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