Record Heat Wave Linked to Climate Change Killed 1,500 People in France This Summer

Heat waves that plagued France this summer left some 1,500 people dead, according to the European nation's health minister.

Agnes Buzyn explained on France Inter radio on Sunday that there had been at about 1,000 more deaths than normal during the summer months, with half of the deceased being 75 or older, the French newspaper Le Monde reported. In total, she said there were 18 exceptionally hot days recorded in France during June and July.

Although the number of deaths was high, Buzyn also pointed out that it was much lower than the 15,000 deaths that occurred during scorching summer heat wave back in 2003. The minister attributed the lower death toll in 2019 to a successful public awareness campaign.

"We have succeeded — thanks to prevention, thanks to workable messages the French population heeded — to reduce fatalities by a factor of 10," she said, according to the Associated Press.

Paris heatwave
People bathe in the Trocadero Fountain in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris during a heatwave on June 28 ZAKARIA ABDELKAFI/AFP

Paris, the French capital, experienced its hottest day ever recorded in July, with the temperature soaring above 108 degrees Fahrenheit. The previous record, documented in 1947, was just under 105 degrees.

Elsewhere in Europe, multiple countries recorded exceptionally hot summer temperatures as scientists pointed to the growing global impact of climate change.

In Germany, the temperature nearly hit 107 and in the Netherlands it narrowly surpassed 105 back in July. In Belgium, the temperature soared above 104, which was a new record as well. In fact, all three countries broke their hottest-ever recorded temperature records twice within 24 hours, British newspaper The Guardian reported at the time.

During the July heatwave, France's Environment Minister Élisabeth Borne warned citizens to avoid traveling.

"I ask everyone who can avoid or delay their journeys to do so," Borne said at the time. "When it is this hot it is not just people in a fragile state who can have health problems."

A study conducted by a team of European scientists linked the intense heat wave directly to man-made climate change.

"What will be the impacts on agriculture? What will the impacts on water?" Robert Vautard of the Institut Pierre-Simon Laplace, who led the study, said last month, according to France 24. "This will put really tension in society that we may not be so well equipped to cope with."

The research concluded that the summer heat was "so extreme over continental Western Europe that the observed magnitudes would have been extremely unlikely without climate change." Without the impact of climate change, the scientists believe that such high temperatures would only occur about once every 1,000 years.