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Heatwave deaths will rise drastically by 2080 without adaptation: study

Xinhua | Updated: 2018-08-01 09:10
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A man uses a pump action water mist sprayer to cool down from the heatwave, along a road in Karachi, Pakistan May 28, 2018. [Photo/Agencies]

WASHINGTON - A study published on Tuesday in the journal PLOS Medicine said if people could not adapt to future climate temperatures, deaths caused by severe heatwaves would increase dramatically in tropical and subtropical regions by 2080.

It is the first global study to predict future heatwave-related deaths, aiming to help decision makers in planning adaptation and mitigation strategies for climate change.

Australian, European and American researchers 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.

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.

"If we cannot 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," said Guo.

According to the study, 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 those during the period 1971 to 2010.

The study came 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.

Antonio Gasparrini, associate professor from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and the paper's co-author, said since the turn of the century, heatwaves have been responsible for tens of thousands of deaths, including regions of Europe and Russia.

"This research, the largest epidemiological study on the projected impacts of heatwaves under global warming, suggests it could dramatically increase heatwave-related mortality, especially in highly-populated tropical and sub-tropical countries," said Gasparrini.

"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," said Gasparrini.

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