Deaths caused by severe heatwaves will increase dramatically by 2080, particularly in countries located near the equator such as India, if we fail to counter climate change, a global study has found.
The study, published in the journal PLOS Medicine, is the first to predict future heatwave-related deaths and aims to help decision-makers in planning adaptation and mitigation strategies for climate change.
Researchers at Monash University in Australia developed a model to estimate the number of deaths related to heatwaves in 412 communities across 20 countries for the period of 2031 to 2080.
The study projected excess mortality in relation to heatwaves in the future under different scenarios characterized by levels of greenhouse gas emissions, preparedness and adaption strategies and population density across these regions.
A key finding of the study shows that under the extreme scenario, there will be a 471 percent increase in deaths caused by heatwaves in three Australian cities (Brisbane, Sydney, and Melbourne) in comparison with the period 1971-2010.
The study comes as many countries around the world have been affected by severe heatwaves, leaving thousands dead and tens of thousands more suffering from heatstroke-related illnesses.
Since the turn of the century, it is thought heatwaves have been responsible for tens of thousands of deaths, including regions of Europe and Russia, said Antonio Gasparrini, an associate professor at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.