A leading environmental organization’s focus on projected public health impacts may indicate climate activists’ movement toward an issue generally neglected across the U.S. … and one some feel could help sway public attitudes toward increased concern.


A respected national environmental organization, the Natural Resources Defense Council, NRDC, is saying some 150,000 additional heat-related deaths could occur across 40 large U.S. cities by the end of the century as a result of the warming climate.

The group’s study, in pointing directly to adverse health effects, zeroes-in on the public health issue, one many analysts say has been all too lacking in many Americans’ considerations of climate change impacts. It’s an issue climate activists increasingly see as the one that could turn the tide of public opinion toward increasing concern; and it’s an issue they say is much more front-and-center across western Europe and other parts of the world than it is in the U.S.

The NRDC study tallies the number of Excessive Heat Event (EHE) days in 40 cities ranging from A to W — from Atlanta, Ga., to Washington, D.C. Compared with 233 EHE days per summer between 1975 and 1995, it looks at an additional 1,109 EHE days by mid-century resulting from a warmer climate, bringing the total across those 40 cities to 1,342. By the end of the century, it estimates those cities will be experiencing an eight-fold increase in EHE days each summer, a total of more than 1,900 per year.

The group’s study also calculates the increased mortalities by mid-century and end-of-century for those 40 cities and does so with a seeming numerical specificity that is bound to make many analysts uncomfortable (for instance, 2,994 additional mortalities in Washington, D.C., by 2099, and 7,516 additional mortalities in Minneapolis by then).

Experts analyzing public attitudes toward climate change and climate change impacts across the U.S. often note survey and polling results indicating that public health is not a high-priority concern that Americans associate with a warmer climate. They and climate activists say climate change public health issues are a much higher priority in many other countries, and they say that changing that equation in the U.S. could help increase public interest in and concern over the issue domestically. It all may suggest an increased emphasis among climate activists on close-to-home public health issues rather than perhaps a continued focus on more distant and remote impacts involving, for instance, polar bears and other exotic, but far-removed, species.

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