Heatwaves caused by global warming will kill thousands in future unless mitigation strategies are put in place for climate change, reveals a new study led by Monash University.

The failure of humans to adapt to the changing climate can result in several deaths caused by extreme heatwaves, especially in tropical and subtropical regions, as well as in Australia, Europe and the United States.

As part of the study, Monash researchers developed a model to estimate the number of deaths due to heatwaves in 412 communities across 20 countries for the period 2031-2080.

The mortality rates were projected based on a number of factors including levels of greenhouse gas emissions, preparedness and adaption strategies, and population density across these regions.

With heatwaves receiving extensive coverage in global media, study lead and Monash Associate Professor Yuming Guo believes these news reports underline the importance of the heatwave study.

Observing that future heatwaves will be more frequent and intense and will last much longer, Associate Professor Guo says it’s important to mitigate the effects of climate change or risk increasing deaths due to heatwaves, particularly in the impoverished regions located around the equator.

In an extreme scenario, death by heatwave will increase by 471 percent in the three Australian cities of Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne in comparison with the period 1971-2010. This situation necessitates strong intervention by the Australian government to initiate mitigation strategies, says Associate Professor Guo.

Recent years have seen a significant increase in the number of deaths and illnesses caused by severe heatwaves in many countries around the world including India, Greece, Japan and Canada.

Study co-author associate professor Antonio Gasparrini from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, says their study suggests global warming could dramatically increase heatwave-related mortality, especially in highly-populated tropical and sub-tropical countries.

However, if countries took the effort to meet the Paris Agreement goals, the projected impact will be much reduced.

The study also recommends six adaption interventions – at individual, interpersonal, community, institutional, environmental and public policy levels – to prevent mass population death due to increasingly severe heatwaves.