Scientists predict major increase in heatwave deaths as world warms

A man uses a pump action water mist sprayer to cool down from the heatwave along a road in Karachi Pakistan

A man uses a pump action water mist sprayer to cool down from the heatwave along a road in Karachi Pakistan

Last Updated: July 31, 2018.

By 2080 mortality from heat may be increased five times.

Associate Professor Gasparrini said he hoped the study's projections would support decision makes in planning crucial adaptation and mitigation strategies for climate change. And extreme heat has been blamed for hundreds of deaths, while risky wildfires have raced through neighborhoods in the western United States, Greece and as far north as the Arctic Circle.

"We know very well that global warming is making heat waves longer, hotter and more frequent", she said.

And the latest study paints an even more dramatic picture of the years to come.

A key finding of the study showed that under the extreme scenario, there will be a 471 per cent increase in deaths caused by heatwaves in three Australian cities (Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne) in comparison with the period 1971-2010.

A team of global researchers based their findings on various scientific models, which predicted that under the most extreme scenarios there would be a 471 percent rise in deaths as a result of heatwaves in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne between 2031 and 2080, compared with the four decades to 2010.

The UK was one of 20 countries included in the research, published in the journal Public Library of Science Medicine.

"If we can not find a way to mitigate the climate change (reduce the heatwave days) and help people adapt to heatwaves, there will be a big increase of heatwave-related deaths in the future, particularly in the poor countries located around the equator".

Guo Yuming, associate professor of Environmental Epidemiology and Biostatistics at Monash University who led the study, said the recent media reports detailing deadly heatwaves around the world highlighted the importance of the heatwave study.

Antonio Gasparrini, an expert from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine who co-led the research, noted that several countries around the world are now being hit by deadly heatwaves and said it was "highly likely" that heatwave frequency and severity would increase under a changing climate.

'The good news is that if we mitigate greenhouse gas emissions under scenarios that comply with the Paris Agreement, then the projected impact will be much reduced'.

The World Health Organization estimates that between 2030 and 2050, climate change is expected to cause an estimated 250,000 excess deaths globally, from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhea and heat stress.

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