Extreme Heat Could Kill Millions in These Countries — and Soon

A cheetah looks on as a fan cools his enclosure at a zoo in Pakistan's extreme heat.
A cheetah looks on as a fan cools his enclosure at a zoo in Pakistan’s extreme heat. | Noah Seelam/AFP/Getty Images

The hottest surface temperature ever recorded was in Iran, where scientists captured a reading of 159 degrees Fahrenheit. Although we can’t and shouldn’t link every heat wave or record high temperature to climate change, trends show global averages are rising. This will lead to all kinds of problems, including sinking cities and mass migrations.

New data is being released at regular intervals now, detailing what we should expect in coming years. A lot of it is quite alarming, too, as it turns out some parts of the world might become quite literally uninhabitable as a result of rising temperatures.

Climate change and killer heat

The main issue, as some scientists are pointing out, is the number of days with high temperatures in a given year is going to grow considerably in certain regions. Higher temperatures for longer stretches of time? It will spell disaster. One study, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, said a significant portion of the world’s population will face existential threats because of rising temperatures within decades.

“Around 30% of the world’s population is currently exposed to climatic conditions exceeding this deadly threshold for at least 20 days a year,” the study said. “By 2100, this percentage is projected to increase to ~48% under a scenario with drastic reductions of greenhouse gas emissions and ~74% under a scenario of growing emissions. An increasing threat to human life from excess heat now seems almost inevitable.”

It’s scary stuff. We looked at which countries are in the most danger from rising temperatures and put together a list of 15. It’s not exhaustive, but these 15 countries could see mass casualties related to climate change over the next century.

1. India

India is a massive country and not just geographically speaking. The country’s population is about 1.3 billion, which is roughly four times as many people as there are in the United States — and in less geographic space.

This could be disastrous when climate change is mixed into the equation. In certain parts of the country, temperatures could soar in coming years, leading to massive body counts. In many cities, temperatures already average nearly 100 degrees Fahrenheit during the summer.

2. Australia

A kangaroo hops through the Outback.
A kangaroo hops through the Outback — an area climate change could make even hotter. | Ian Waldie/Getty Images

Most of Australia’s population already resides along the coasts. That’s because the country’s interior — including the Outback — is basically a giant oven. Climate change, naturally, would likely cause temperatures in certain regions to climb even higher, which could end up killing more people than ever.

Many Australians have already been killed due to heat-related causes, and that could get even worse. Between 1844 and 2010, extreme heat killed more than 5,300 Australians.

3. Brazil

Rio de Janeiro's Ipanema Beach
Rio de Janeiro’s Ipanema Beach | Vanderlei Almeida/AFP/Getty Images

South America’s biggest and most populous country, Brazil is also in danger of seeing more extreme and deadly heat waves as a result of climate change. Brazil’s cities are also rife with poverty, meaning many people without access to clean water or air-conditioning are particularly at risk. In certain parts of the country, average temperatures already hit near 100 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer. If that goes up in coming decades, things could get very ugly.

4. Pakistan

People cool themselves off in a water channel during a heat wave in Pakistan
People cool themselves in a water channel during a heat wave in Pakistan. | Arif Ali/AFP/Getty Images

Pakistan is also in harm’s way when it comes to the effects of climate change. Heat waves in recent years have killed thousands, and more frequent heat waves will result in more deaths. Few countries are in a worse position to deal with rising temperatures than Pakistan.

5. United Arab Emirates

Atlantis, The Palm hotel in Dubai
Atlantis, The Palm hotel in Dubai | iStock.com/slava296

While Pakistan is preparing for the worst, so are folks in the United Arab Emirates. Most of us know the UAE because of Dubai, as the rest of the country is mostly desert. Temperatures in the country average well over 100 degrees Fahrenheit during certain parts of the year. This is also one of several nations in the Gulf region that might become uninhabitable within decades due to extreme heat.

6. Saudi Arabia

Muslim pilgrims near Mecca
Muslim pilgrims near Mecca | Mohammed Al-Shaikh/AFP/Getty Images

Another Gulf region country that will see massive problems due to increasing temperatures is Saudi Arabia. It’s much larger and more populous than UAE, but Saudi Arabia will experience the same pains related to climate change. Thousands of people — including foreign pilgrims visiting Mecca — have been killed by the heat over the years. And it’s only going to get worse.

Now, we’ll swing through the African nations that are in a very precarious position as global temperatures rise.

7. Sudan

A Sudanese woman grieves near a Sudanese refugee camp
A Sudanese woman grieves near a Sudanese refugee camp. | Paula Bronstein/Getty Images

Few nations have had a rougher go of it in recent years as Sudan. There have been famines, droughts, and civil wars. And on top of that, the country is facing a lot of uncertainty related to climate change. Temperatures often soar above 110 degrees Fahrenheit in Sudan, and it’s not uncommon for heat waves to kill dozens. Widespread poverty also means many people don’t have access to water or air-conditioning to cool off.

8. Somalia

A displaced Somali mother and her children take cover from the hot sun in a makeshift shelter
A displaced Somali mother and her children take cover from the hot sun in a makeshift shelter. | Tony Karumba/AFP/Getty Images

Sudan’s nearby neighbor Somalia is perhaps in more trouble than any country in the world. This is mainly due to the fact that there has been a lack of any sort of stability for decades now. There are few places people can go for help. And as weather patterns become more extreme, the needy will be in even more trouble. Disease, malnutrition, and extreme heat can only lead to disaster.

9. Chad

A Chadian soldier serving with the African-led MISCA force heating his daily ration during a patrol
A Chadian soldier serving with the African-led MISCA force heats his daily ration during a patrol. | Sia Kambou/AFP/Getty Images

Yet another north-central African country — as this is the main glut of nations that are in very serious trouble — Chad faces the same tough conditions that Sudan and Somalia do. Again, widespread drought and a lack of resources are already making things tough for Chad’s population, and changing climate patterns will only exacerbate that. Temperatures regularly soar above 100 degrees Fahrenheit, and the country’s record high was 122 degrees Fahrenheit.

10. Niger

A woman removes the husks from grains of millet
A woman removes the husks from grains of millet. | Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images

Located to the west of Chad, Niger is yet another country in the African interior which is in for some turbulence. Much of the country is desert, including the Sahara, where temperatures are known to climb well over 100 degrees Fahrenheit almost daily. And, as you’ve probably guessed, that has led to plenty of deaths over the years, mostly related to disease, drought, and famine.

11. Mali

A child from a Mali tribe standing in the Sahara desert during the 1973 famine
A child from a Mali tribe standing in the Sahara desert during the 1973 famine. | John Downing/Express/Getty Images

We keep moving west through central Africa, which puts Mali next on our list. Though we’re talking about a different country, in this case, it’s the same unfortunate story. Mali has been dealing with droughts and famines for decades, and those problems will grow worse as average temperatures rise. Mali’s hottest recorded temperature was 130 degrees Fahrenheit, and during the summer the average high is 108 degrees Fahrenheit.

12. Mauritania

Mauritanian women fetch water
Mauritanian women fetch water. | Georges Gobet/AFP/Getty Images

As we move west along the “danger zone,” as it relates to climate change, the next country on our list is Mauritania. The country is actually situated along the coast, though its larger portions are inland bordering Mali and Algeria. It’s these portions that typically experience the hottest temperatures. Triple-digit temperatures are the average for more than six months of the year in these areas.

13. Nigeria

Kids playing beach football in Nigeria
Kids play beach football in Nigeria. | Ben Radford/Allsport

Nigeria borders Niger to the south and sits along the Atlantic coast. Like the other countries preceding it, Nigeria has experienced significant problems related to disease and famine. Heat waves, naturally, are also a big problem. Again, it’s mostly in the country’s interior where temperatures soar into the triple digits. But humidity near the coast can also make it very hard to keep cool and hydrated.

14. Thailand

Elephants enjoy pieces of ice and frosted fruits during hot weather at Dusit Zoo in Bangkok
Elephants enjoy pieces of ice and frosted fruits during hot weather at Dusit Zoo in Bangkok. | Pornchai Kittiwongsakul/AFP/Getty Images

Researchers say countries in the tropical regions will be the hit the hardest by climate change. That includes Thailand. It’s already a hot and humid part of the world, and temperatures in Thailand will only increase as climate trends shift in coming decades. Intense and long heat waves are already starting to become the new norm, and many deaths are associated with these temperature spikes — including a number of drownings related to kids trying to beat the heat.

15. Venezuela

Smoke billows from El Avila National Park, as fires caused by the intense heat
Smoke billows from El Avila National Park, as intense heat causes fires. | Miguel Gutierrez/AFP/Getty Images

We’ll finish off with Venezuela, a country that is experiencing a number of issues completely unrelated to climate change. But Venezuela, which is located in northern South America, is also facing issues related to forest fires (unlike many other countries on our list) as temperatures rise. Also — and we don’t mean to trivialize — but the country appears to be running out of beer reserves as temperatures increase.

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