20,000 Died Amid Punishing Heatwaves And Record Temperatures Across Western Europe This Summer, Data Indicates

Topline

Extreme heat was responsible for more than 20,000 deaths across western Europe this summer, official figures suggest, as the continent was battered by a series of punishing heatwaves and record-breaking temperatures that are likely to become more frequent and more intense in light of human-driven climate change.

Key Facts

Excess deaths, the difference between the number of deaths recorded and what was expected based on past trends, were notably higher during the periods of extreme heat sweeping across western Europe this summer, official figures from the U.K., Germany, Spain and France show.

France, whose public health agency documented 10,420 excess deaths this summer, accounted for around half, though the Covid-19 pandemic is likely responsible for a portion of these.

Nearly 3,000 of these deaths took place during one of the three heatwaves hitting France this summer, which the agency said was the country’s second hottest on record since 1900.

There were 3,271 excess deaths in England and Wales between June 1 and September 7, according to the U.K.’s Office for National Statistics and Health Security Agency, 6.2% higher than the five-year average (the figure excludes excess deaths attributed to Covid-19 and the agencies said the number of deaths was higher on hotter days).

In Germany, there were more than 4,500 heat-related deaths this summer, according to the Robert Koch Institut, which said 2022 was the country’s warmest summer since weather records began in 1881.

In Spain, there were 4,655 deaths attributable to heat between June and August, according to the Carlos III Health Institute.

Key Background

This summer was Europe’s hottest on record. The average summer temperature for 2022 beat out the previous record set the year before in 2021 and the seven years between then and 2015 have been the hottest ever recorded. Parts of France, Britain and Spain all logged record temperatures during punishing heatwaves that swept across the continent this summer. Experts roundly attribute the extremes to climate change and warn matters are likely to get worse in the future. Europe is warming much faster than many other parts of the world. Outbreaks of diseases like malaria and dengue could become more common in a warmer Europe, the bloc’s health agency warned, and its aging population is less well-positioned to withstand extreme heat. By the end of the century, some reports estimate up to 90,000 people could die each year in Europe due to heat.

Big Number

$16 trillion. That’s how much extreme heat caused by human-driven climate change has cost the global economy between 1992 and 2013, research suggests, though the true figure could be as high as $65 trillion. Extreme heat has an impact on human health, productivity and agricultural output, all of which affect the economy. As with many of the consequences of climate change, this burden is disproportionately shouldered by the world’s poorest, which have typically contributed the least towards global warming and pay the most for it.

Further Reading

Europe’s Heat Waves Offer a Grim Vision of the Future (Wired)

Heatwave may have killed ‘generation’ of baby bats (BBC)

Heat Waves Driven By Climate Change Have Cost The World $16 Trillion Since The 90s (Forbes)

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