power outages. Dumpster is on fire. And comparisons with fiction about climate catastrophes.
This is India in 2022 as extreme heat, compounded by climate change, threatens life and crops as the country braces for higher temperatures and scorching weather in the days to come.
“It’s really quite unbearable,” said hydroclimatologist Arpita Mondal of the Indian Institute of Technology in Mumbai.
“It’s so hot and muggy that even if you’re not doing anything, just sitting in one place under the fan or air conditioning, it’s tiring – it’s that bad.”
If you have no choice but to work outside because you get a daily wage, things are much worse.
Prolonged exposure to extreme temperatures like those measured in India this week poses significant health risks.
“It can be deadly for some,” said Dr. Mondal.
According to scientists, more than a billion people are at risk of heat-related health problems.
Temperatures have soared to over 40C in India’s capital New Delhi and are expected to linger at around 44C through Sunday, with the peak of summer heat still to come before cooling monsoon rains arrive in late June or July.
Across the border in Pakistan, temperatures in the Dadu area hit 47.5C on Thursday and mercury is expected to approach 50C in parts of the country this weekend.
“Temperatures are rising rapidly,” India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi told state leaders in an online conference on Wednesday.
“And get up a lot earlier than usual.”
Mr Modi also warned that the country has already seen increasing fires, including in hospitals, in recent days.
Dozens of people die in fires in Indian hospitals and factories every year, mostly due to illegal construction and lax safety standards, according to the news agency.
The heat wave sweeping India is stinging, according to Dr. Mondal for two reasons.
The first is that it struck early. India’s prime summer months – April, May and June – are always unbearably hot in most parts of the country before monsoon rains bring cooler temperatures.
But this year India recorded its hottest March on record since the India Meteorological Department began recording 122 years ago.
The second is that it affects most of the country and not the usual hotspots, which are the central-northern, north-western region encompassing Rajasthan and the south-east including Andhra Pradesh, she said.
This year, most of India’s 1.4 billion people, except perhaps those in mountainous regions, are reeling from the heat, she added.
It’s still too early for scientists to measure to what extent this heat wave was fueled by climate change.
However, climate scientists have warned that heat waves are increasing in intensity and frequency in India and around the world due to global warming, which is mainly caused by the burning of fossil fuels.
The United Nations landmark climate report, released last August, said: “It is virtually certain that hot extremes (including heat waves) have become more frequent and intense in most land regions since the 1950s.”
The report said it had “high confidence” that human-caused climate change was the main reason for these changes.
“Every heat wave occurring today has been made more likely and more intense by climate change,” said Friederike Otto, Senior Lecturer in Climate Science at the Grantham Institute for Climate Change and the Environment at Imperial College London.
“Climate change is really game-changing heatwaves and they are the deadliest extremes there are.”
In India, heat waves were early on and have become particularly intense in the last decade, killing hundreds each year.
Francesco Tamilia, a policy analyst who recently worked on a report examining the impact of climate change on heatwaves and the impact on human health, said that not only does it cause heatstroke when the body can’t regulate its temperature, but also aggravates cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, there was evidence that extreme heat could contribute to preterm birth and low birth weight, and increase the risk of stillbirth.
It also has an impact on mental health, according to a study, as rising temperatures are associated with rising suicide rates.
Extreme heat can also negatively impact the economy and is associated with low productivity because some people find it too hot to work, said Mr Tamilia, who works at Public Policy Projects, an independent policy institute.
Rising temperatures are already hurting wheat yields, leaving shrunken harvests in their wake. according to local reports.
This is worrying considering Russia has already invaded Ukraine threaten the global wheat supply.
However, there are some success stories of customization.
dr Mondal pointed to an initiative in the city of Ahmedabad, Gujarat state, that had replaced aluminum roofs in the city’s slums with roofs made of fiber and cardboard, which would be cooler.
Still, several climate scientists and weather observers have pointed out that the heatwave was just another example of how those who did little to global warming suffered its consequences.
“What about those who don’t have enough clean water to drink, resources to cool their homes, or jobs that allow them to stay indoors,” Chandni Singh, an environmental social scientist at the Indian Institute for Human Settlements in Bengaluru, tweeted . “It is a deep climatic injustice that those bearing the brunt of the current heatwave have done so little to contribute to the problem.”
“As a climate scientist, I’m tormented by the question, where do we go from here?”
Aditi Mukherji, climate change adaptation researcher at the International Water Management Institute, said she cannot understand why high emitters are not reducing their emissions fast enough.
“How do you adapt to such extreme heat? You just can’t,” she tweeted.
“Mitigation is the best adaptation.”
https://www.independent.ie/world-news/unbearable-blistering-heat-threatens-lives-and-livelihoods-in-india-41599300.html “Unbearable” – blazing heat threatens lives and livelihoods in India