Heat-related deaths are likely to soar over the next 40 years due to climate warming, but new research has found that increase could be cut by more than half — and virtually eliminated in Atlanta — if major cities across the nation embraced a greener footprint.
The four-year study out of Georgia Tech is the first major national assessment of major city residents’ health, the impact of rising temperatures and what city officials could do to alleviate a growing crisis.
Heat already kills more people in the United States than hurricanes, tornadoes and earthquakes combined, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And science shows most major cities, including Atlanta, are already warming at two times the rate of the planet.
The Tech report notes that the number of heat-related deaths in U.S. cities is projected to more than double by 2050 — but can also be reduced if cities plant more trees and add green space, decrease impervious surface areas such as parking lots, and use more reflective materials on roads and rooftops.
Using Atlanta, Philadelphia and Phoenix as his models, Tech planning professor Brian Stone Jr. found in the study those measures would reduce any increase in heat-related deaths by nearly 60 percent and effectively prevent an increase in Atlanta.