Even if global warming is limited to 1.5 degrees Celsius, potentially deadly heat waves will likely become more frequent in South Asian countries, including India, in the coming decades, according to a new report.
Scientists, including those from the United States’ Oak Ridge National Laboratory, have warned that a rise in extreme heat events could put workers in danger in major crop-producing states like Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal, as well as coastal regions and cities like Kolkata, Mumbai, and Hyderabad.
According to a report published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, two degrees of warming raises the population’s vulnerability to lethal temperatures by nearly threefold relative to recent years.
“The future looks bad for South Asia, but the worst can be avoided by containing 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,” said Moetasim Ashfaq, study co-author from Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
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“Even at 1.5 degrees, South Asia will have serious consequences in terms of heat stress. That’s why there is a need to radically alter the current trajectory of greenhouse gas emissions,” Mr Ashfaq added.
The researchers used climate models and population growth forecasts to estimate the number of people in South Asia who would be exposed to dangerous levels of heat stress at global warming levels of 1.5 and 2 degrees Celsius.
They calculated the wet bulb temperature, which is similar to the heat index in that it takes both humidity and temperature into account.
According to the report, a wet bulb temperature of 32 degrees Celsius is considered the point at which labour becomes dangerous, and 35 degrees Celsius is the point at which human survival is no longer possible because the person can no longer cool itself.
According to the findings, 2 degrees of warming could increase people’s exposure to dangerous working heat and temperatures by more than twofold, and their exposure to lethal temperatures by 2.7 times, relative to recent years.
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the world has warmed by 1 degree Celsius since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution and will warm by 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2040.
“Only half a degree increase from today is going to cause a widespread increase in these events,” Mr Ashfaq said.