According to a new study possibly 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 degrees Celsius.
Scientists, including those from Oak Ridge National Laboratory in the US, said such a rise in extreme heat events can generate unsafe labour conditions in major crop-producing parts of India, such as Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal, as well as coastal regions and urban centres like Kolkata, Mumbai, and Hyderabad.
According to the research, published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, with two degrees of warming, the population’s exposure to harmful temperatures rises by close to three times as compared 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.
“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.
In the study, the researchers used climate simulations and forecasts of future population growth to determine the number of people who will experience dangerous levels of heat stress in South Asia at global warming levels of 1.5 and 2 degrees Celsius.
They estimated the wet-bulb temperature residents could experience, which is similar to the heat index, as it takes into account both humidity and temperature.
It is also noted that a wet-bulb temperature of 32 degrees Celsius is considered to be the point when work becomes unsafe, and 35 degrees Celsius is the limit to human survivability when the body can no longer cool itself.