People watch as the sun sets from Gas Works Park on Monday, July 30, 2018, in Seattle.
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People watch as the sun sets from Gas Works Park on Monday, July 30, 2018, in Seattle.
Credit: KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Expect more heat-related deaths in Seattle, scientists say

It’s hot this week. That’s dangerous, especially for outdoor workers and the very young and very old.

But this weather is nothing compared to what climate change could bring to Seattle, according to a new study out this week in Science Advances.

Researchers found that if the planet warms two degrees Celsius above where it is today, 725 people could die in Seattle during every extreme heat wave.

“These events will be quite deadly,” said Kristie Ebi, a public health researcher at the University of Washington and one of the co-authors of the study. “They’re also going to become more frequent.”

At the moment, heat waves that bad come only once every 30 years.

Ebi said keeping the global temperature at only half a degree Celsius above where it is today would cut the number of deaths Seattle would see during extreme heat waves in half.

“Unless we reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, we’re going to see a very large increase in the number of people who die needlessly in heat waves,” she said.

The study looked at how extreme heat waves would affect Seattle’s current population, not what might happen as Seattle’s population grows or ages. The study also did not include climate adaptation measures that might be taken, such as increased access to air conditioning.