spanish desert

Humans adapting to hotter climates driven by global warming, study suggests

Image credit: DT

A new study suggests that humans are already adapting to the impact of climate change, citing the fact that heat deaths in Spain have decreased over the last 35 years despite steady increases in temperature.

The research from the Autonomous University of Barcelona found that summer temperatures in Spain had increased by nearly one degree Celsius on average between 1980 and 2015.

Datasets from 47 major cities in Spain were analysed over the time period which included daily temperatures and 554,491 deaths from circulatory and respiratory causes, filtered by gender.

It found that, contrary to expectations, the numbers of heat-related deaths had declined rather than increased.

The trend is most likely explained by adaptations to higher temperatures, said the researchers.

Co-author of the study, Dr Joan Ballester, from the Barcelona Institute for Global Health, said: “We are becoming less vulnerable to heat thanks to society’s adaptation to higher temperatures and also to the socioeconomic development we have seen in recent decades.

“Improvements in housing stock, the popularisation of air conditioning, advances in health services and awareness campaigns are all factors that may have contributed to the trend we are seeing.

“However, we still don’t know whether this downward trend will continue if climate change becomes more intense in the future.”

On average, summer temperatures in Spain have been increasing at 0.33°C per decade.

An important exception to the general downward trend of heat deaths was increased numbers of deaths from respiratory causes, especially among women.

This could be linked to an ageing population and higher incidence of certain chronic diseases, said the researchers.

Last week, Google announced it was teaming up with the United Nations to create a new platform that uses historical satellite imagery to demonstrate how water ecosystems have changed over time due to the impact of global warming. 

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