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Meeting climate goals would cut U.S. city heat deaths, Miami ahead

A man wipes his forehead while sitting in Central Park in New York July 5, 2012. REUTERS/Eric Thayer

The Miami area is home to U.S. President Donald Trump's winter retreat - Mar-a-Lago

By Sebastien Malo

NEW YORK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The U.S. city of Miami would be the biggest winner if global warming is kept to internationally agreed limits, averting a greater share of projected deaths from extreme heat than other large American cities, scientists said on Wednesday.

The area home to U.S. President Donald Trump's winter retreat - Mar-a-Lago, a resort he owns a short hour's drive from Miami - could be at an advantage if Washington aligned policy with a global pact to fight climate change, a study suggested.

The 2015 Paris Agreement adopted by nearly 200 nations set a goal to keep global temperature rise to "well below" 2 degrees Celsius (3.6F) above pre-industrial times, and to "pursue efforts" for 1.5C.

But Trump vowed to pull the United States out of the accord in favor of planet-warming fossil-fuel extraction and use.

In Miami, lives lost in an exceptionally hot year to heat-related illness could be cut by more than half if temperature rise were kept to 1.5C, rather than the current course of 3C, the study published in the journal Science Advances found.

That means nearly 1,250 fewer people would die.

The study by British and U.S. scientists quantified how many people in 15 U.S. cities would succumb to hot days should temperatures rise an average of 1.5C, 2C or 3C.

High temperatures can aggravate pre-existing health problems, such as heart conditions, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

If global warming were limited to 1.5C, Philadelphia and New York residents could avert, after Miami, the largest fraction of deaths from extreme heat among the cities studied.

New York and Philadelphia could respectively see about 2,700 and 700 fewer residents die in those cities' warmest year over three decades at a 1.5C rise, the scientists found.

That is a little less than half the deaths predicted under a 3C rise.

The reduction in avoidable heat-related deaths varied between cities due to factors including access to air conditioning, risk awareness and healthcare quality, the researchers said.

The World Meteorological Organization said last November global temperatures were on course for a 3-5C rise this century.

In the U.S. study, the scientists' estimates of death from heat were "quite conservative", said lead author Y.T. Eunice Lo, a research associate at Britain's University of Bristol.

The number of heat-related deaths could increase if the cities' populations age, as projected, and grow. Older adults are more susceptible to heat-related mortality, Lo added.

The scientists combined climate models predicting future temperatures with historical data on deaths and daily temperatures spanning about 13 years for each city.

Besides Miami, Philadelphia and New York, they analyzed Los Angeles, Chicago, Detroit, Dallas, Houston, Seattle, Phoenix, Washington D.C., Atlanta, St. Louis, Boston and San Francisco.

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