Scientist have long blamed climate change for floods, droughts, ruining habitats, ecosystems and driving many different species of animals into extinction. But a new study has found that climate change likely has a very direct effect on people’s health too.
A team of researchers revealed yesterday that New England saw more of its residents die in the years with hotter summers. The temperatures didn’t even have to be particularly high on the thermometer, just warmer than average. On the opposite end of the four seasons, England saw less of its residents die in the years with warmer than average winters.
The researchers, led by Joel Schwartz, professor of environmental health from the Harvard Chan School of Public Health, wrote that the lives saved during winter did not make up for the lives lost during summer. They explained that when summer rose in mean temperatures by 1 degree Celsius (almost 2 degrees Fahrenheit), the death rate rose by 1 percent (1%).
But when winter rose in mean temperatures by 1 degree Celsius (almost 2 degrees Fahrenheit), the death rate decreased by a mere 0.6 percent (0.6%).
For their study, were published earlier this week, on Monday (July 13, 2015), in the journal Nature Climate Change, the research team looked at almost 3 million (2.7 million to be exact) people with the age of 65 or older.
Professor Schwartz explained the process saying that he and his colleagues followed everyone in New England that had data on Medicare collected between the years of 2000 and 2008. He added that they also looked at the average temperate that each year had during summer as well as during winter, and then compared them to the annual death rates.
Roughly 30 percent (30%) of the 2.7 million subjects died over the course of the study.
The results showed that summers with warmer than average temperatures caused the number of recorded deaths to grow, while winters with warmer than average temperatures caused the number of recorded deaths to drop. The findings back up previous studies that have shown how climate change is directly affecting human beings.
The researchers pointed out that the main problem is not necessarily the unusually high temperatures, as much as the abrupt changes in temperate.
Liuhua Shi, a graduate student with an expertise in environmental health and researcher at Harvard University’s School of Public Health, gave a statement saying that climate change might be affecting by causing seasonal weather to be more unpredictable and creating temperature conditions that are very different from those that people have gotten used to.
Professor Schwartz also commented on the matter, saying that “variability mattered”. He went on to explain that people don’t generally acclimate to temperature really fast, and informed that more subjects dies when there was a higher “day-to-day variability within the season”.
Professor Schwartz also shared that heat can endanger people’s lives by raising their blood pressure, causing their cholesterol levels to worsen, and in extreme cases, cause heat stroke.
It’s worth noting that the study was geographically limited and that climate change affects different regions in different ways. Some corners of the world are experiencing colder winters, and another recent study revealed that Africa is experiencing rain.
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