By Hugo Greenhalgh
LONDON, March 2 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - At least
1,500 deaths in Britain can be directly linked to climate change
since 2000, as the country grappled with severe heatwaves, while
four major floods caused billions in financial losses, Oxford
University scientists said on Tuesday.
In a study, they analysed existing data from two deadly
heatwaves in 2003 and 2018, as well as four floods between 2000
and 2016 that cost about an estimated $18 billion in losses.
They found that at least half of the total damages and
deaths that occurred could be attributed to climate change.
Friederike Otto, acting director of Oxford University's
Environmental Change Institute and one of the study's authors,
said far more data needed to be collected and analysed worldwide
for the true consequences of climate change to be understood.
If metrics were agreed, "I think it would become far more
obvious to everyone that the impacts of climate change are real
and not something that will happen in the future and to someone
else ... but that they are upon us and costing lives here and
now", Otto told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
The authors looked at the two specific British heatwaves
because the influence of climate change on them had already been
analysed, although others also occurred in the time frame.
Under the 2015 Paris Agreement, which aims to limit global
warming to "well below" 2 degrees Celsius compared with
pre-industrial levels, more than 190 countries must submit
action plans setting out measures to combat climate change.
They include not just targets to reduce climate-heating
emissions but also ways to adapt to more extreme weather and
rising seas, in a bid to limit losses and damage.
About 5.2 million homes and other properties in England are
at risk of flooding, according to Britain's Environment Agency,
as sea levels have risen about 16 cm (6 inches) in Britain since
The new study, published in the scientific journal Climate
Risk Management, said other countries also faced extreme weather
costs exacerbated by climate change, both human and financial.
For example, in Puerto Rico the increased intensity of
Hurricane Maria in 2017 led to the deaths of up to 3,670 people,
Separately, Stanford University researchers in January found
climate change boosted the cost of flood damage caused by heavy
rainfall in the United States by $75 billion over the past three
decades, accounting for about a third of total losses.
Ben Clarke, lead author of the Oxford study, said he hoped
the research would help governments think about how to reduce
the impact of future extreme weather events.
"There are deaths occurring as a result, and policy should
be based on that," he said. "It's all about distributing
resources to effectively mitigate that as much as we can.
(Reporting by Hugo Greenhalgh @hugo_greenhalgh; Editing by
Megan Rowling. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the
charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of
people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly.