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‘Overheating’: Parisians have the highest risk of heat-related death in Europe

People use an umbrella to shelter from the sun near the Louvre Pyramid (Pyramide du Louvre) during a heatwave in Paris on June 26, 2019.
People use an umbrella to shelter from the sun near the Louvre Pyramid (Pyramide du Louvre) during a heatwave in Paris on June 26, 2019. Copyright KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP or licensors
Copyright KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP or licensors
By Sudesh Baniya
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People in the French capital are more likely to die from high temperatures than those in 854 other urban areas across Europe.

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Parisians face the greatest risk of dying due to heat when compared to other European cities, according to a new study published in Lancet Planet Health.

The French capital had the highest temperature-related mortality risks across all age groups, among 854 European cities and urban areas included in the study.

The study assessed Europe-wide deaths caused due to "non-optimal temperature conditions" from January 2000 to December 2019.

For elderly residents aged 85 and above, excess death due to the rise in temperature was 1.6 times more likely in Paris than elsewhere.

The French capital was followed by Amsterdam and Zagreb in terms of risk for heat-related deaths.

Why is Paris at higher risk than other European cities?

Paris’ heat-related mortality shot up due to the 2003 heatwave which affected France particularly badly, the report says. Socio-economic conditions and adaptation policies also impact vulnerable populations.

Heatwaves have become increasingly common and intense in Paris, while the lack of greenery in the city has been a frequent talking point.

Such episodes of freak weather are growing increasingly common due to climate change. Scientists have warned that unless people and governments take drastic action they will only get worse. 

MARTIN BUREAU/AFP
A woman cools off next to a fountain near the Eiffel Tower in Paris.MARTIN BUREAU/AFP

Paris is also particularly vulnerable as the city’s homes use zinc – a heat-absorbing metal – on their roofs, exacerbating high temperatures, the report added.

Although vulnerability to heat-related deaths increases with age, it also found that extreme heat affects all ages more homogeneously than extreme cold.

How is Paris preparing for future heat waves?

Several other reports say Paris is “overheating” and could experience heat waves 34 days per year by 2080, compared to the 14 days per year average in the 2010s. 

This has prompted policymakers to adapt to the “new reality” caused by climate change. 

A recent report warned of the possibility of sweltering temperatures of more than 50°C in the French capital by mid-century.

“We are in a new climate situation in which some people are already suffering, and which is going to get even worse,” Green party MP Alexandre Florentin warned in 2022.

A “climate action plan” put forward after the 2003 heatwave aims to make Paris carbon neutral by 2050 and avoid it becoming a “heat island”.

The report also urged for more robust policies to tackle the growing problem, especially in urban cities that are increasingly suffering due to changing climatic conditions.

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