Heatwaves could kill more than 100,000 Europeans per year by the 2080s if climate change is not tackled.
According to a new study, children, the elderly and the chronically ill will be increasingly struck down with heatstroke, heart and breathing problems and early deaths.
The terrifying predictions have been made by the European Commission Joint Research Centre based in Italy, which looked at the impact of global warming from Southern Europe through to Northern Europe and Iceland.
It suggests that within 65 years, between 2,515 and 7,484 Brits could be killed by ‘extreme weather events’ every year – up from around 90 a year currently.
The forecast reflects a worst-case scenario; if greenhouse gas emissions see no reductions and if nothing is done to improve protection from extreme weather events.
The study sees heatwaves as being the biggest killer, taking up to 7,358 lives, followed by coastal flooding at around 56, river flooding 36 and storms at least 34 a year from 2080.
Lead author of the study Dr Giovanni Forzieri said: “Climate change is one of the biggest global threats to human health of the 21st century, and its peril to society will be increasingly connected to weather-driven hazards.
“Unless global warming is curbed as a matter of urgency and appropriate measures are taken, about 350 million Europeans could be exposed to harmful climate extremes on an annual basis by the end of the century.”
There is expected to be widespread disruption to power and transport infrastructures, property damage and people being regularly displaced.
The elderly, sick and in particular the poor will be biggest hit. Wealthier members of society will be able to protect themselves by installing air conditioning and flood-proofing their homes.
But the new weather extremes would still kill at least 152,000 Europeans and as many as 239,758 a year by 2080, representing an increase of 50 times from 3,000 a year at the start of this century.
The effects will also be made worse by an increase in the amount of urban areas.
The study looked at the effects of the seven most harmful types of weather-related disaster – heat waves, cold waves, wildfires, droughts, river and coastal floods, and windstorms in the 28 EU countries plus Switzerland, Norway and Iceland.
Dr Forzieri added: “Continued urbanisation will probably amplify heat-induced effects through the urban heat island effect in that built-up areas absorb and retain heat and are therefore hotter than natural land cover.
“The combined effects of heatwaves and air pollution might further exacerbate human stress in densely populated areas.”