• Over 10 million Australians live in areas of very high to hazardous heat risk
  • Heatwaves cause on average over 3,000 deaths per year, with 36,000 deaths due to heat between 2006 and 2017
  • Rising temperatures will cost Australia AU$19 billion by 2030 in lost agricultural and labour productivity


Over 10 million Australians live in areas facing extreme heat-related risks, according to a new report Extreme Heat in Australia by KPMG Australia and Melbourne-based climate resilience startup ClimaSens. The report outlines specific areas of risk as well as the action needed now to mitigate the threat of extreme heat.

ClimaSens’ flagship product HeatSens provides localised heat risk analysis from a national level down to a one-kilometre grid across all of Australia, enabling organisations to understand heat risk to populations today and over the coming decades, as well as forecasted heatwave risk to communities using real time weather data.  Its data shows that 38% of the entire population faces heat issues due to the social economic vulnerability of populations. According to the 2023 ACOSS Heat Survey, heatwaves were responsible for 36,000 deaths between 2006 and 2017 in Australia.

As well as the risk to life and health, heat also has severe economic impacts. In 2020, loss of productivity from heat exposure in the US cost the economy US$100 billion with annual costs expected to grow to US$500 billion by 2050.

James Mabbott, Partner, KPMG Futures, said the responsibility for preparing for and responding to Australia’s heat risks falls on multiple shoulders, including Government, industry and NGOs.

“Extreme heat threatens Australian’s health, livelihoods and even our outdoor lifestyle. Responding to heat-related risks require both immediate actions and ongoing strategies to build a long-term climate resilience. Doing so will require rigorous planning to understand the present and future risks that heat-related events pose. We need to ensure that our communities and the existing and future infrastructure that surround them are fit for purpose in the face of increased risk from extreme heat,” he said.

Extreme heat risks

1. Silent killer: nearly five times more people will likely die due to extreme heat globally by 2050 under a scenario where the world warms by 2.7°C.

2. Power grid problems: residential electricity use can be three-to-four times higher than normal on days that are 35 °C or hotter, placing stress on the power grid and increasing the risk of blackouts or power shortages. Under hot conditions, generators, transformers, transmission lines, and even solar panels and wind turbines experience reduced efficiency, resulting in lower energy supply to the system.

3. Infrastructure damage: current roads and transport are designed for specific climates, not the extreme temperatures experienced. Intense heat can lead to road buckling and pavement cracking, causing damage to rail tracks, bridges and power cables for railways and vehicles. During Australia’s 2018 heatwave, parts of the Hume Highway actually melted.

4. Healthcare pressure:  Victoria’s Department of Health found the 2014 heatwave resulted in a 7% increase in public hospital emergency visits and a 25% increase in ambulance emergency callouts. These increases strain an already resource-challenged healthcare system where staffing, bed availability and ambulance services struggle to meet current demands.

5. Workforce impact: by 2030, 2% of total working hours worldwide will be lost every year as high heat makes working more difficult with higher accident rates. This impact will not be limited to outdoor occupations such as agriculture and construction but will also extend to indoor industries like manufacturing and transportation, where work environments lack cooling.

6. Economic cost: Rising temperatures are forecast to cost Australia $19 billion by 2030 and $211 billion by 2050 in lost agricultural and labour productivity. NSW Treasury models project losses of up to 2.7 million working days per year due to heatwaves by 2061.

7. Building damage: intense heat can cause damage to building materials. Metal beams expand and adhesives crack, exposing buildings to leaks and structural vulnerabilities. Growing demand for cooling will potentially further contribute to increased GHG emissions.

8. Socio-economic vulnerabilities: Research has found that more than 60% of deaths during heatwaves between 2001 and 2018 were in the most disadvantaged areas of Australia. More vulnerable people are less likely to have access to air conditioning or the ability to afford to run it.

Joseph Glesta, ClimaSens founder and CEO, said heat risk is an important challenge for communities, cities and organisations, with the most disadvantaged areas typically worst affected.

"Heatwaves have long been a problem for Australia, but climate change is intensifying the threat. It affects all aspects of society, from human health to economic and infrastructure concerns. As the number of extreme heat days continue to grow, there will need to be a concerted focus from government on how to support employers and employees during heat events,” Glesta said.

For further information

Ashford Pritchard
0411 020 680