News from ISGlobal
Summer temperatures in Spain have risen by more than 1ºC since 1980 due to climate change. Despite this increase, and contrary to expectations, deaths related to heat have declined rather than increased. This trend suggests that the Spanish population has been adapting to the change, reducing its vulnerability to summer temperatures. These were the conclusions of a study coordinated by the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal), an institution supported by the ”La Caixa” Banking Foundation.
The study, published in PLoS Medicine, analysed data on daily temperatures and deaths in 47 provincial capitals in Spain for every summer from 1980 to 2015. The results of their analysis reveal two opposing trends: on the one hand, a progressive increase in the mean summer temperature of 0.33ºC per decade; and, on the other, a gradual decrease in heat-related mortality risk over the same period. The result of these two opposing trends has been a slight decrease in heat-related mortality of around half a percentage point per decade.
According to ISGlobal researcher Joan Ballester, senior author of the study, “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.”
The team is currently carrying out the same study on data from Europe as a whole, and the results of that study are expected to be available in the coming months.
Achebak H, Devolder D, Ballester J (2018) Heat-related mortality trends under recent climate warming in Spain: A 36-year observational study. PLoS Med 15(7): e1002617. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1002617