If global warming sometimes seems like a distant or abstract threat, new research casts the phenomenon in stark, life-or-death terms. It predicts that in the absence of significant progress in efforts to curb emissions of temperature-raising greenhouse gases, extreme heat waves could claim thousands of lives in major U.S. cities, NBC News reported.
If the global average temperature rises 3 degrees Celsius (5.4 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels — which some scientists say is likely if nations honor only their current commitments for curbing emissions — a major heat wave could kill almost 6,000 people in New York City. Similar events could kill more than 2,500 in Los Angeles and more than 2,300 in Miami.
But the new research also indicates that if the U.S. and other nations take aggressive steps to limit warming, many of those deaths from extreme heat might be avoided.
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“There is, actually, still hope, and a very small window of opportunity” to keep global warming below international targets and prevent some heat-related deaths, said Eunice Lo, a climate scientist at the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom and a co-author of a paper describing the research, published June 5 in the journal Science Advances.