Be Afraid: U.N. Report Warns Post-Coronavirus World Could Feature Massive Heatwaves Capable of Killing Millions

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 01: Climate change protesters hold a banner as they stand at the entrance to The Royal Bank of Scotland's headquarters on September 1, 2009 in London, England. Climate campaigners have also been staging a week long protest camp in Blackheath south London. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty …
Peter Macdiarmid/Getty

Be afraid. Once the coronavirus pandemic is done and dealt with, a draft United Nations report warned Wednesday searing, unrelenting heat could lay waste to large swathes of the planet, killing millions who have no means to escape a massive climate change event.

The grim climate tidings are contained in a draft U.N. report that predicts dire consequences for billions if “global warming continues unchecked,” updating earlier climate models that suggested it would take nearly another century of unabated carbon pollution to spawn heatwaves exceeding the absolute limit of human endurance.

Now unprecedented killer heatwaves are forecast to be on the near horizon, according to a 4,000-page Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) study, as seen by AFP before its scheduled release in February 2022.

AFP reports work of the U.N.’s climate science advisory panel paints a frightening — and deadly — picture for a warming planet, providing yet another set of warnings to add to those that have gone before.

Earlier this year John Kerry, whom President Joe Biden appointed as the United States special presidential envoy for climate, said in an interview with the BBC only nine years remain to save the planet from destruction, as Breitbart News reported.

If the world warms by 1.5 degrees Celsius — 0.4 degrees above today’s level — 14 percent of the population will be exposed to severe heatwaves at least once every five years, “a significant increase in heatwave magnitude”, the report says.

Going up half a degree would add another 1.7 billion people.

Ultimately, high heat will destroy more lives indirectly rather than by reaching levels at which the body simply shuts down, the IPCC report suggests.

Higher temperatures will spread disease vectors, reduce crop yields and nutrient values, slash labour productivity and make outdoor manual labour a life-threatening activity while starving populations multiply across the planet.

In all, it says the climate crisis is real and must not be ignored, now or most certainly not in the near future.

Experts agree the worst impacts could be avoided if global warming is capped as close to 1.5 degrees Celsius as possible, in line with the Paris Agreement.

But even then, with temperatures rising twice the global average in many regions, some severe climate impacts are certain.

“Today’s children will witness more days with extreme heat when manual labour outside is physiologically impossible,” the IPCC report warns.

AFP contributed to this story

Follow Simon Kent on Twitter: or e-mail to:


Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.