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Cosmic illustration of Planet Earth, displaying the dramatic environmental effects of climate change
NASA has confirmed that July 2023 was the hottest month ever in the global temperature record. | Image: Getty Images

Dr. Andrew Dessler, a professor in the Department of Atmospheric Sciences at Texas A&M University and director of the Texas Center for Climate Studies, has published a research paper that has been featured by the American Geophysical Union (AGU), a leading scientific society supporting more than half a million advocates and professionals in the Earth and space sciences.

Dessler’s piece, titled “Future Temperature-Related Deaths in the U.S.: The Impact of Climate Change, Demographics and Adaptation” and published earlier this week in the transdisciplinary AGU journal GeoHealthwas co-authored by Dr. Jangho Lee, a 2023 Texas A&M atmospheric sciences Ph.D. graduate.

In their study, the duo examined daily death rates in 106 U.S. cities containing 65% of U.S. population from the period 1987 to 2000 and used a statistical model to determine how the number of deaths changed based on the temperature in each city. Subsequently, the pair took these findings and used computer predictions regarding how temperatures might change in the next 100 years because of climate change. By doing this, the researchers were able to estimate how many more people might die in the future across the nation because of hotter temperatures.

Highlighted results from the study showed that climate change decreases temperature-related U.S. mortality by roughly a few thousand deaths per year for global warming below 3.2 degrees Celsius. This occurs because the duo found that the reduction in cold-related deaths exceeds the increase in heat-related deaths.

"If the Earth warms by more than 3.2 degrees Celsius, the impact will depend on how well people can adjust," Dessler explained. "If the efforts to adjust and adapt aren't successful, the number of deaths linked to temperature will increase."

Dessler and Lee further note that, while climate change might not greatly alter the overall number of deaths related to the climate in the entire U.S., it does affect where temperature-related deaths happen. Temperature-related deaths will shift from the southern U.S. (e.g., Houston) to the northern U.S. (e.g., Chicago).

“This research highlights the importance of doing everything we can to limit the warming the planet experiences as well as helping people adapt to warmer temperatures that we cannot avoid,” Dessler said.

The duo's dire predictions come just a day after scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York declared July 2023 hotter than any other month in the global temperature record.

Read more about Dessler’s analysis in his related three-part series on his substack, The Climate Brink.

About Research At Texas A&M University

As one of the world’s leading research institutions, Texas A&M is at the forefront in making significant contributions to scholarship and discovery, including in science and technology. Research conducted at Texas A&M generated annual expenditures of more than $1.148 billion in fiscal year 2021. Texas A&M ranked 14th in the most recent National Science Foundation’s Higher Education Research and Development Survey based on expenditures of more than $1.131 billion in fiscal year 2020. Texas A&M’s research creates new knowledge that provides basic, fundamental and applied contributions resulting, in many cases, in economic benefits to the state, nation and world. To learn more, visit Research@Texas A&M.