NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


August 11, 2004

A recent study by Columbia University's Earth Institute predicts that heat-related deaths in New York City and its surrounding area will increase 50 percent by 2025, and more than triple by 2080. However, these dire predictions may be overheated.

According to a University of Virginia study:

  • Heat-related deaths in the Big Apple declined between the 1960s and 1990s, from about 85 annually to 25 per year by the 1990s.
  • Twenty-two out of 28 cities have experienced declines in heat-related deaths over time, or have not been shown to experience humidity and heat-related impacts.
  • Cities in the Northeast and the Midwest experience the greatest impact of heat, but heat-related death rates for those cities in the 1990s were much lower than in previous decades.

The reason for the decline is adaptation. Air conditioners in homes, cars and workplaces are far more common in areas such as New York City than they were 20 years ago. People are also more aware of heat dangers and take precautions accordingly.

In fact, a study by Dr. Laurence Kalkstein of the Center for Climate Research (to be released in August) reveals that Philadelphia's heat watch/warning system has saved 270 lives since its inception in 1995, at a cost to the government of only $100,000 per year.

Sources: World Climate Alerts, "Baked Big Apple," and "Human Adaptation," CO2 & Climate Team, Greening Earth Society, July 2004.


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