Deadly heat waves are going to be a much bigger problem in the coming decades, becoming more frequent and occurring over a much greater portion of the planet because of climate change, according to a study published Monday in Nature Climate Change.
Extreme heat waves, such as the one torching the Southwestern United States and the one plaguing Western Europe, which has sparked wildfires in Portugal that have killed more than 60 people, are frequently cited as one of the most direct effects of man-made climate change.
The study says, by the year 2100, three out of four people on Earth could be subject to at least 20 days per year of heat and humidity associated with deadly heat waves, if greenhouse emissions continue to rise at their current rates.
Currently, that number is about one in three people.
Even if humans aggressively cut back on fossil fuel emissions, such as outlined in the Paris climate agreement, rising temperatures and humidity levels will combine to increase the intensity and frequency of deadly heat waves, the study said. President Donald Trump recently announced he would be pulling the United States out of the Paris Agreement.
"Our attitude towards the environment has been so reckless that we are running out of good choices for the future," said Camilo Mora, associate professor at the University of Hawaii at Manoa and lead author of the study.
"For heat waves, our options are now between bad or terrible," Mora said.
"Many people around the world are already paying the ultimate price of heat waves, and while models suggest that this is likely to continue to be bad, it could be much worse if emissions are not considerably reduced."