Climate change is killing people now, and it's going to get much deadlier

By Brandon Miller and Judson Jones

Published August 2, 2018

Summer has been a scorcher all over the Northern Hemisphere, with record heat, devastating droughts and deadly fires. Climate change is contributing to these disasters already, and it’s likely to only get worse.

Image: Ina Fassbender/AFP/Getty Images

Hottest day in Korean history

On Wednesday, both South and North Korean capitals set record highs: Seoul hit 39.6° C (103.3° F), and Pyongyang reached 37.8° C (100° F).

This follows Japan setting a national record last week when Kumagaya, northwest of Tokyo, topped 41° C (106° F) during a heat wave that killed dozens.

Image: KAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP/Getty Images

According to a climate study released this week, parts of East Asia may become the deadliest heat wave zone by 2070. China’s north plain, one of the most densely populated regions of the Earth, will experience conditions that can kill even healthy people in six hours outdoors, due to a combination of heat and humidity.


€1 billion

April and May were the hottest on record in Germany, setting the stage for a crippling drought that in July became the worst on record. Farmers in Germany are seeking a €1 billion (US $1.17 billion) aid package to help deal with the impact of the drought.

Image: ARMIN WEIGEL/DPA/AFP/Getty Images

We are dealing with an extraordinary weather anomaly. Global warming has hit hard. The last 20 years are almost permanently above average.

Andreas Friedrich

Certified meteorologist and spokesman for the German Weather Service

Image: Julian Stähle/DPA/AFP/Getty Images

July has been off-the-charts hot in California, and nowhere on the planet has ever been hotter than Death Valley. The “nation’s furnace” finished the hottest month on Earth with a blistering average temperature of 108.1° F (42.3° C).

Image: Richard Brian/AP

The extreme hot and dry weather has worsened fires across California. The worst of them, the Carr Fire, has burned more than 125,000 acres and destroyed over 1,500 structures, making it the sixth most destructive fire in state history.

video: KRCR

More serious predictions of warming and fires to occur later in the century, 2040, 2050, are now occurring in real time. We are in uncharted territory. We haven’t had this kind of heat condition. … Fire season lasts longer, and fires are much bigger.

California Gov. Jerry Brown

Image: Hector Amezcua/AP

Research is showing that what we are experiencing is just the beginning of what global warming will mean for our planet. A study released this week predicts that heat wave mortality rates will skyrocket in coming centuries.

Tropical countries like Colombia, Brazil and the Philippines could see heat wave deaths 10 to 30 times higher than current numbers by 2080. Even more temperate locations like the United States and Australia could see four times the number of heat deaths.