Heat waves are defined as periods of abnormally hot weather generally lasting more than two days. To be considered a heat wave, the recorded temperatures must be substantially above the historical averages for a given area. According to climate scientists, anthropogenic climate change is likely causing heat waves to increase in both frequency and intensity.
According to a new study by researchers from Dartmouth University, climate change-driven severe heat waves have cost the world economy trillions of dollars since the early 1990s.
In the study, which was recently published in the journal Science Advances, researchers combined in-depth economic data for regions worldwide with the average temperature for the hottest five-day period —a commonly used measurement of heat intensity—for each region in each year. The research team found that between 1992 and 2013, heat waves statistically coincided with variations in economic growth and that an estimated $16 trillion was lost to the effects of high temperatures on human health, productivity and agricultural output.
The results of the study underscore issues of climate justice and inequality. According to researchers, the economic costs of extreme heat have been and will be disproportionately borne by the world’s poorest nations. While economic losses due to extreme heat events averaged 1.5% of GDP per capita for the world’s wealthiest regions, the researchers found that low-income regions suffered a loss of 6.7% of GDP per capita. Most of these low-income nations have contributed the least to climate change.
According to the research team, immediate action is needed now to protect vulnerable people during the hottest days of the year.
Photo, posted July 23, 2021, courtesy of Martin Fisch (marfis75) via Flickr.