Paris has been ranked as the European city with the greatest risk for heat-related deaths, according to a new study published by the Lancet Planet Health.
The study looked at data from 854 cities and urban areas across Europe from January 2000 to December 2019 to analyse rates of excess mortality due to extreme temperatures.
Paris stood out amongst European cities when looking at the impact of high temperatures on mortality rates, across all age groups. For elderly people aged 85 and over, the study found that excess death was 1.6 times more likely due to heat.
After Paris, Amsterdam and Zagreb had the next highest risk for heat-related deaths.
Experts pointed to a few factors as to why France’s capital would be Europe’s most dangerous city for heat-related death. First, the data included the impacts of the 2003 heat wave, which hit France especially hard. Between 15,000 to 19,000 people died as a result of the extreme heat.
However, due to factors such as the urban heat island effect, which causes large cities to be warm up faster than their less urbanised areas, the city of Paris was sometimes 10C warmer than its surrounding suburbs and urban areas, according to 20 Minutes.
During the 2003 heatwave, Paris recorded an excess mortality of 141 percent due to the high temperatures, in comparison of a 40 percent excess mortality in small to medium sized cities in France, weather reporter Kevin Floury explained to BFMTV.
Part of the reason Paris has suffered so much from high temperatures has to do with its many zinc rooftops that keep heat in, and its lack of green space, as concrete surfaces retain more heat.
In response to the 2003 heatwave, the city created a ‘climate action plan’ in order to limit the impacts of heatwaves. The goals of the plan are to shift Paris away from being a ‘heat island’ and eventually become carbon neutral by 2050.
READ MORE: Trees to trams: How French cities are adapting to summer heatwaves
The city plans to invest in greening and tree-planting efforts, among other innovative plans such as building urban solar power plants and using the structures to shade public spaces in parks like Bois de Vincennes.
Now, during heatwaves, the city publishes an interactive map to show people where they can go to cool off, along with maintaining a database of elderly residents, with regular phone calls made on request to check up on them during periods of high-heat.
Nevertheless, according to AFP, Paris “could experience heat waves on average 34 days per year by 2080, compared to 14 days per year in the 2010s”, as such local authorities have begun planning for scenarios of a “Paris at 50C“.