UH study on heating planet: Do nothing and the future is 'terrib - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

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UH study on heating planet: Do nothing and the future is 'terrible'

(image: Hawaii News Now/file) (image: Hawaii News Now/file)
MANOA, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

A new study led by a University of Hawaii researcher says 74 percent of the world’s population will be exposed to deadly heatwaves by 2100 if carbon gas emissions continue to rise at current rates.

“We are running out of choices for the future,” said Camilo Mora, associate professor of geography in the UH College of Social Sciences.

"I wish I had better news to tell you but what we found is that even in the best case scenario that things gonna get bad. It could get a lot worse if we don't do anything. The best case scenario you will have about 50 percent of the world's human population exposed to deadly heat."

A team of researchers led by Mora analyzed climatic conditions of more than 780 lethal heat episodes and identified a threshold beyond which temperature and humidities become deadly. They found that the amount of global land area where the threshold is crossed for 20 or more days per year has been increasing and will continue to grow – even with dramatic cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.

Researchers found more than 1,900 cases of locations worldwide where high ambient temperatures have killed people since 1980. Such examples include the 2003 European heatwave that killed about 70,000 people and a heatwave that killed 10,000 people in Moscow.

“Heatwaves pose a considerable risk to human life because hot weather, aggravated with high humidity, can raise body temperature, leading to life threatening conditions,” Mora said.

The study, published in the journal "Nature Climate Change," also found the greatest risk to human life from deadly heat was projected for tropical areas.

“With high temperatures and humidities, it takes very little warming for conditions to turn deadly in the tropics,” said co-author Iain Caldwell, a UH Manoa post-doctoral researcher, in a statement.

Mora added that Hawaii has reason to be concerned.

"States and cities like Honolulu need to start developing these plans to make our cities greener because is turns out that planing more trees makes our cities colder," Mora said. "Right now, the choices are between bad and terrible. Bad if we do something. Terrible if we don't."

Currently, about 30 percent of the world’s human population is exposed to deadly heatwave conditions each year, Mora said.

“Climate change has put humanity on a path that will become increasingly dangerous and difficult to reverse if greenhouse gas emissions are not taken much more seriously,” Mora said. “Actions like the withdrawal from the Paris agreement is a step in the wrong direction that will inevitably delay fixing a problem for which there is simply no time to waste.”

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