The World Meteorological Organization made the announcement at the UN’s conference on climate change in The Hague on 21 November. “Heatwaves are expected to become a major killer,” the organisation’s Secretary General Godwin Obasi said. He said that small increases in temperature from global warming are amplified in big cities and that the danger would be greatest in the third world’s largest cities which would have less resources and facilities to cope with the problem and poorer access to information on preventative measures.

Obasi also warned that in the United States in the last decade, heatwaves killed more than any other natural phenomena. “In 15 US mega-cities, deaths from heatstroke during an average summer have risen significantly in the last decade. “They have now reached about 1,500. But our projection is that by 2020 there could be three to 4,000 deaths in the US alone, ” he said. In 1999, several hundred people died in one US heat wave in the Northeast and Midwest.

Obasi said that other cities around the world which could expect to see increasing deaths from heatstroke include Toronto, Shanghai, Athens and Madrid.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recently revised its climate models predicting global temperature increases would have risen by 1.5 to 6.1 degrees Celsius in 2100, instead of the one to 3.6 Celsius increase originally predicted. The 1990’s was the warmest decade on record globally and 1998 was the hottest year.

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