Climate Change Impacts on Heat-Related Mortality in Large Urban Areas in China

Document Type


Publication Date



Global climate change is anticipated to raise overall temperatures and is likely to increase future mortality attributable to heat. Urban areas are particularly vulnerable to heat because of high concentrations of susceptible people. As the world’s largest developing country and the largest carbon emitter, China has experienced noticeable changes in climate, partially evidenced by frequent occurrence of extreme heat in urban areas, which could expose millions of residents to summer heat stress that may result in increased health risk, including mortality. While there is a growing literature on future impacts of extreme temperatures on public health, projecting changes in future health outcomes associated with climate warming remains challenging, with the related health impacts in developing countries largely unexplored. This is an exploratory study aimed at projecting future heat-related mortality risk in major metropolitan areas in China. We focus on 50 large Chinese cities that cover about 1/3 of the total population in China, and propose to assess the potential changes in heat-related mortality under 19 different global-scale climate models and three Representative Concentration Pathways (RCPs) used in the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fifth Assessment Report (IPCC AR5). We project future changes in heat-related mortality in the 2050s and 2070s relative to the base period of 1950-2000. The projections are based on an integrated assessment framework that combines high-resolution climate model outputs, city-specific temperature-mortality relationships, population projections and baseline mortality rates. Future temperature changes in the study areas are estimated based on downscaled climate model outputs at a spatial resolution of about 1 square kilometer. City-specific historical temperature-mortality associations are obtained from the epidemiological literature. Population projections are based on the China census 2010 survey and projected population growth rates from the 2015 Revision of World Population Prospects by the United Nations. Baseline mortality rates are obtained from China’s national and local health statistics publications. Our findings suggest that future heat mortality risk attributable to elevated warm season temperature is likely to be significant in China’s urban areas, with substantial geographic variations, highlighting the significance of climate mitigation and local-level heat risk management.


Hangzhou, China

This document is currently not available here.