A global temperature rise of two degrees by 2050 would result in increased loss of life, a new Australian study has found.
Scientists from the Queensland University of Technology and the CSIRO say they have conducted world-first research which looks at the "years of life lost" due to climate change.
They focused on the city of Brisbane, which has a subtropical climate.
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"A two-degree increase in temperature in Brisbane between now and 2050 would result in an extra 381 years of life lost per year in Brisbane," lead
researcher Associate Professor Adrian Barnett, from the university's Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation, said in a statement.
"A two-degree increase in temperature is the figure in the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says is dangerous, but could be reached unless more aggressive measures are undertaken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions."
Professor Barnett said an increase of more than two degrees would be catastrophic.
"A four-degree increase in temperature would result in an extra 3242 years of life lost per year in Brisbane."
Professor Barnett said the "years of life lost" measurement gives greater weight to deaths at younger ages instead of focusing just on elderly people.
"We wanted to use years of life lost because we suspected that many temperature-related deaths were in the elderly, which would reduce the public health importance of temperature compared with other issues," he said.
"In fact, we found the opposite, with a surprisingly high years of life lost figure."
Interestingly, the study found that a one-degree increase would result in a decrease in the number of lives lost.
This is believed to be because the increase in heat-related years of life lost are offset by the decrease in cold-related years of life lost. The researchers said cold-related deaths are significant, even in a city with Brisbane's warm climate.
And many deaths could be avoided if people have better insulation in their houses.
"Many houses in Brisbane are built of thin planks of wood and are poorly insulated, which means the occupants are exposed to whatever the temperature is outside," Professor Barnett said.
The researchers believe that while their work was focused on Brisbane, it contains helpful information to decision-makers in other areas as well.