Columbia researchers predict an increase of heat related deaths in Manhattan from global warming
Think Manhattan is a hot place to live?
You have no idea.
As many as 1,000 extra weather-generated deaths a year may occur in the borough by the 2080s under the worst case global warming scenario, according to a new joint study by the Columbia University Earth Institute and the Mailman School of Public Health.
"The critical message is that no matter how you feel about global warming, we have a well established vulnerability to heat waves," which have already been proven to be highly lethal, especially to the elderly, the very young, and those with pre-existing health conditions, said Radley M. Horton, associate research scientist at The Earth Institute and a co-author of the paper. A 2010 heat wave in Russia killed more than 50,000 people, Horton noted.
By the 2050s, temps could be an average of three to four degrees higher and by the 2080s, four to seven degrees higher in the borough, which is already typically five degrees higher than surrounding areas. "That's a big difference," said Horton, noting that regardless of remedial actions taken, "we're already locked into some warming because of our carbon dioxide emissions in the past."
New York City has been implementing an ambitious sustainability agenda since 2007 to reduce carbon emissions 30 percent, said City Hall spokes woman Lauren Passalacqua. The city is planting more than a million trees, reducing energy use and expanding recycling efforts and will continue to update its response "as we make progress or learn more about our vulnerabilities," Passalcqua said in an email.
"New York City has shown real leadership," in not only reducing emissions and in novel programs such as "cool roofs," which paints roofs with light-reflecting paint, and offering incentives to prevent power outages, but also by responding to heat events with cooling centers and getting air conditioners to vulnerable populations, said Horton. But the problem, he said is global. "Air conditioners are an adaptation to climate change, but globally, they lead to more power usage, which leads to higher temperatures," Horton said.
A 2011 health advisory from the New York City Department of Health said that "heat illnesses" result in 160 hospital admissions and 440 emergency department visits each year and that 152 heat stroke deaths occurred in NYC between 1997 and 2010. Deaths from natural causes increased 6.5% during heat waves, resulting in an additional 1,090 deaths, said the report.
The largest percentage increases in temperature are likely to occur in May and September and "cold season" mortality may dip, the Columbia researchers noted.