Extreme weather seen killing 152,000 Europeans a year by 2100

LONDON (Reuters) - Europe's death toll from weather disasters could rise 50-fold by the end of this century, with extreme heat alone killing more than 150,000 people a year by 2100 if nothing is done to curb the effects of climate change, scientists said on Friday.

In a study in The Lancet Planetary Health journal, the scientists said their findings showed climate change placing a rapidly increasing burden on society, with two in three people in Europe likely to be affected if greenhouse gas emissions and extreme weather events are not controlled.

The predictions, based on an assumption of no reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and no improvement in policies to reduce the impact of extreme climatic events, show European weather-related deaths rising from 3,000 a year between 1981 and 2010 to 152,000 a year between 2071 and 2100.

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Extreme weather in Europe
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Extreme weather in Europe
A man jumps from a bridge into the Limmat river during hot temperatures in Zurich, Switzerland June 21, 2017. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A man uses a stand up paddle (SUP) board during a windy day on Lake Leman in Cully, Switzerland June 29, 2017. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse
Paraffin fire pots protecting the vines against freezing temperatures are seen on a vineyard of Swiss wine-grower Daniel Grab in Adlikon, Switzerland April 20, 2017. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann
Wine-grower Daniel Grab (R) and an assistant stand beside paraffin fire pots to protect the vines against freezing temperatures at his vineyard in Adlikon, Switzerland April 20, 2017. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann
People relax as they float in their dinghies during hot temperatures down the Limmat river in Zurich, Switzerland June 21, 2017. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann
A view shows ice flow floating on a lake in front of the Solheimajokull Glacier, where the ice has receded by more than 1 kilometer (0.6 miles) since annual measurements began in 1931, Iceland October 16, 2015. The French President went to the glacier to experience firsthand the damage caused by global warming, ahead of major U.N. talks on climate change in Paris this year. France is host to the World Climate Change Conference 2015 (COP21) from November 30 to December 11. Picture taken October 16, 2015. REUTERS/Thibault Camus/Pool
A woman cools off at a fountain in downtown Rome as a heatwave hits Italy, August 3, 2017. REUTERS/Max Rossi
A man and a dog play next to a sandspit that emerged due to the drought in the lake of Bracciano, north of Rome, Italy July 26, 2017. REUTERS/Tony Gentile
A woman walks next to a fountain in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican July 25, 2017. REUTERS/Max Rossi
A water intake of the low water level Edersee reservoir is pictured in Nieder-Werbe near Waldeck, Germany July 22, 2017. Picture taken July 22, 2017. REUTERS/Ralph Orlowski
The dam wall of the Edersee reservoir with low water level is pictured near Waldeck, Germany July 22, 2017. Picture taken July 22, 2017. REUTERS/Ralph Orlowski
The Brandenburg Gate is pictured through a window during heavy rain in Berlin, Germany, May 30, 2017. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch
An uprooted tree is seen after a storm in Berlin, Germany May 30, 2017. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke
Firefighters work on a flooded street during heavy rain in Berlin, Germany, June 29, 2017. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch
TURIN, ITALY - 2017/08/04: A sign of a pharmarcy shows the temperature during the heatwave in Italy. (Photo by Nicol�Campo/LightRocket via Getty Images)
A firefighting plane drops flame retardant to extinguish a forest fire in Castagniers near Nice, France July 17, 2017. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A hiker using snow-shoes visits the building that imitates a greco-roman temple which was built in 1869 on the summit of the Donon mountain as he enjoys a cold and sunny winter day in the Vosges mountains, in Granfontaine, near Strasbourg, France, January 19, 2017. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Firefighters spray water to extinguish a forest fire in Castagniers near Nice, France July 17, 2017. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A man looks at his house during a forest fire in Castagniers near Nice, France July 17, 2017. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
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"Climate change is one of the biggest global threats to human health of the 21st century, and its peril to society will be increasingly connected to weather-driven hazards," said Giovanni Forzieri of the European Commission Joint Research Center in Italy, who co-led the study.

He said that "unless global warming is curbed as a matter of urgency", some 350 million Europeans could be exposed to harmful climate extremes on an annual basis by the end of the century.

The study analyzed the effects of the seven most harmful types of weather-related disaster – heat waves, cold waves, wildfires, droughts, river and coastal floods and windstorms – in the 28 countries of the European Union, plus Switzerland, Norway and Iceland.

The team looked at disaster records from 1981 to 2010 to estimate population vulnerability, then combined this with modelling of how climate change might progress and how populations might increase and migrate.

Their findings suggested heat waves would be the most lethal weather-related disaster and could cause 99 percent of all future weather-related deaths in Europe – rising from 2,700 deaths a year between 1981 and 2010 to 151,500 deaths a year in 2071 to 2100.

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Climate change in Norway
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Climate change in Norway

Svalbard islands in Norway.

(Photo by: Hermes Images/AGF/UIG via Getty Images)

A view of the Blomstrand Glacier, on June 16, 2016, in Ny-Alesund, Norway. US Secretary of State John Kerry and Norwegian Foreign Minister Borge Brende toured the glacier, and made remarks about climate change. Kerry is visiting Norway's extreme north to view areas impacted by climate change with melting ice and the opening of new sea lanes.

(EVAN VUCCI/AFP/Getty Images)

Sunlight shines just after midnight on a fjord near the Norwegian Arctic town of Longyearbyen, April 26, 2007. The sea water is normally frozen solid at this time of year but global warming may be warming the region.

(REUTERS/Francois Lenoir)

Wild reindeer forage for food on the island of Spitsbergen on the Svalbard archipelago in the Arctic circle as the Norwegian islands enter summer 'midnight sun' season.

(Ben Birchall/PA Archive)

US Secretary of State John Kerry (L) and Norwegian Foreign Minister Borge Brende (C) make a tour of the Blomstrand Glacier on June 16, 2016, in Ny-Alesund, Norway. Kerry is visiting Norway's extreme north to view areas impacted by climate change with melting ice and the opening of new sea lanes.

(LARSEN, HOEKON MOSVOLD/AFP/Getty Images)

A reindeer walks on snow on June 4, 2010 in Ny-Alesund in the Svalbard archipelago.

(MARTIN BUREAU/AFP/Getty Images)

Dutch scientist Appy Sluijs enters a cave at the bottom of the Longyearbyen glacier April 25, 2007 which has been shrinking fast in recent years. Many experts link the thaw to global warming.

(REUTERS/Francois Lenoir)

Svalbard islands in Norway.

(Photo by: Hermes Images/AGF/UIG via Getty Images)

Screen grab from video I shot shows UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon pointing towards glaciers in the distance as Kim Holmen, research director at the Norwegian Polar Institute, shows the UN chief around the atmospheric measuring station in Ny-Aalesund, a climate change research station on the Norwegian island of Svalbard 0n September1, 2009. Ban is on a two-day trip to the Arctic Circle to see first-hand the effects of climate change ahead of key international climate talks in Copenhagen in December.

(JACQUELINE PIETSCH/AFP/Getty Images)

A reindeer is pictured on June 4, 2010 in Ny-Alesund in the Svalbard archipelago.

(MARTIN BUREAU/AFP/Getty Images)

The sun shines low in the sky just after midnight over a frozen coastline near the Norwegian Arctic town of Longyearbyen, April 26, 2007. The sea water is normally frozen solid at this time of year but global warming may be warming the region.

(REUTERS/Francois Lenoir)

Svalbard islands in Norway.

(Photo by: Hermes Images/AGF/UIG via Getty Images)

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The results also predicted a substantial rise in deaths from coastal flooding, from six deaths a year at the start of the century to 233 a year by the end of it.

The researchers said climate change would be the main driver, accounting for 90 percent of the risk, while population growth, migration and urbanization would account for 10 percent.

Paul Wilkinson, a professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine who was not involved in the research, said its findings were worrying.

"Global warming could result in rapidly rising human impacts unless adequate adaptation measures are taken, with an especially steep rise in the mortality risks of extreme heat," he said.

The findings add "further weight to the powerful argument for accelerating mitigation actions" to limit emissions, slow climate change and protect population health, Wilkinson said.

(Reporting by Kate Kelland; Editing by Gareth Jone

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