Deadly heatwaves will become more common in South Asia: Scientists
Potentially deadly heatwaves will likely become more commonplace in South Asian countries, including India, in the coming decades even if global warming is limited to 1.5 degree Celsius, according to a new study. According to the research, published in Geophysical Research Letters, with two degree of warming, the population's exposure to lethal temperatures rises by close to three times as compared to recent years.
Increase in extreme heat can create unsafe labor conditions: Scientists
Scientists, including those from Oak Ridge National Laboratory, said, "Such an increase in extreme heat events can create unsafe labor conditions in major crop-producing parts of India, such as Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, coastal regions, and urban centers like Kolkata, Mumbai, and Hyderabad."
Need for adaptation is today, it's not a choice anymore
"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. It's not a choice anymore," said Moetasim Ashfaq, study co-author from Oak Ridge National Laboratory. "There is a need to radically alter the current trajectory of greenhouse gas emissions," Ashfaq added.
Estimated wet-bulb temperature residents could experience
The researchers estimated the wet-bulb temperature residents could experience, which is similar to the heat index, as it takes into account both humidity and temperature. The study noted that a wet-bulb temperature of 32 degree Celsius is considered to be the point when labor becomes unsafe, and 35 degree Celsius is the limit to human survivability when the body can no longer cool itself.
Researchers used climate simulations and projections of future population
In the study, the researchers used climate simulations and projections of future population growth to estimate the number of people who will experience dangerous levels of heat stress in South Asia at global warming levels of 1.5 and two degree Celsius.
Planet may reach 1.5 degree Celsius of warming by 2040
While the planet has warmed by one degree Celsius since the start of the Industrial Revolution, it may reach 1.5 degree Celsius of warming by 2040, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. "Only half a degree increase from today is going to cause a widespread increase in these events," Ashfaq said.
Increase in unsafe labor temperature, lethal temperature
Based on the analysis, the scientists said that two degree of warming may increase people's exposure to unsafe labor temperatures by more than two-fold, and exposure to lethal temperatures by 2.7 times, as compared to recent years.
South Asian cities lack regular access to air conditioning
The scientists said, "Densely-populated South Asian cities already lack regular access to air conditioning, and about 60 percent of their populations perform agricultural work and cannot escape the heat by staying indoors." "This deadline leaves little time for South Asian countries to adapt since the people there are especially vulnerable to deadly heatwaves with the area already experiencing very hot, humid summers," they added.
Policy framework needed to fight heat stress: Scientist
"A policy framework is very much needed to fight against heat stress and heat wave-related problems," said TV Lakshmi Kumar, an atmospheric scientist at SRM Institute of Science and Technology in Chennai, who was not involved in the study.