Deadly Heatwaves Will Be the Norm in India by 2040: Report
Deadly heatwaves will become commonplace across South Asian countries, including India, by 2040 — if global warming is not addressed immediately, a new study has found.
The study notes a 2-degree Celsius rise in temperature in South Asia will almost triple South Asians’ exposure to heat stress — but even a 1.5-degree rise will make deadly heatwaves the norm across the region, where almost a quarter of the world’s population resides. At the present rate of climate change, researchers expect South Asia to hit the 1.5-degree mark as soon as 2040.
Published this month in Geophysical Research Letters, the findings of the study suggest that soaring temperatures and lethal heatwaves can trigger unsafe labor conditions in agricultural belts of the country across states like Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. They can also jeopardize the health and survivability of people living in coastal regions and in metropolitan cities too.
The study comes on the heels of current heatwaves across several metropolitan cities in India. Yesterday, the India Meteorological Department announced Delhi had experienced its hottest March day in 76 years. At the same time, Mumbai recorded its third-highest March temperature in a decade on Saturday.
Last June, the Earth Sciences Ministry of India published a report stating that India’s average temperature had risen by 0.7 degrees Celsius between 1901 to 2018 — primarily due to the country’s greenhouse emissions. It also predicted a two- to threefold increase in the frequency of heatwaves, as well as a doubling of the duration of these heatwaves.
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“Even at 1.5 degrees [hotter], South Asia will have serious consequences in terms of heat stress…. Only half a degree increase from today is going to cause a widespread increase in these events,” Moetasim Ashfaq, a computational climate scientist at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in the U.S. who co-authored the latest study, said in a statement. He stressed the “need to radically alter the current trajectory of greenhouse gas emissions.”
Experts note government intervention might be imperative to achieve that. “A policy framework is very much needed to fight against heat stress and heatwave-related problems,” T.V. Lakshmi Kumar, an atmospheric scientist at SRM Institute of Science and Technology in Chennai, India, who was not involved in the study, told Hindustan Times.
While Kumar added, “India has already committed to reduce emissions to combat climate change issues,” there is much to be done as carbon emissions are rebounding to pre‑Covid19 levels, globally, as well as in India.
“The future looks bad for South Asia, but the worst can be avoided by containing [global] warming to as low as possible. … The need for adaptation over South Asia is today, not in the future. It’s not a choice anymore,” Ashfaq concluded.