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Thursday, December 1, 2022
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Climate Change made devastating early heat in India and Pakistan 30 times more likely

The heat wave that affected India and Pakistan in March and April was 30 times more likely due to climate change, according to a report published by the World Weather Attribution (WWA) initiative.

In face of sustained global warming, heat waves like this will be “even more common and hotter,” the report says, and in a scenario of a global mean temperature going two degrees Celsius higher, in such an event the region would be between 0.5 and 1.5 degrees hotter.

In the same circumstances, the region would have been about 1 degree cooler in a pre-industrial climate, notes the WWA report, in which scientists from India, Pakistan, the Netherlands, France, Switzerland, New Zealand, Denmark, the United States, and the United Kingdom collaborated to assess the extent to which human-induced climate change altered the probability and intensity of the heat wave.

Since the beginning of March, India, and Pakistan, and also much of South Asia, has suffered from a prolonged heat episode. Early reports indicated 90 deaths in these two countries and an estimated 10-35% reduction in crop yields in Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Punjab due to the hot spell.

Although heat waves are not uncommon in the pre-monsoon season, soaring temperatures so early, coupled with well-below-average rainfall, “have led to extreme heat conditions with devastating consequences for public health and farming”.

The report highlights that the early heat wave was accompanied by precipitation and humidity “well below average and therefore constituted a dry heat wave, making humidity much less important for impacts on climate.”

In Pakistan and India, the report recalls, extreme heat affects more people who must go outside to earn a daily wage, such as street vendors, construction and agricultural workers or traffic police, who lack access to constant power and cooling, limiting the options for coping with prolonged heat stress.

Alpine glaciers could be gone by the end of the century. The consequences will be felt throughout Europe.

The group of experts used historical series of temperatures and mathematical models to reach their conclusions, although they indicate that the results of the report are “probably conservative” since the relatively short length of the observed data made it difficult to consider more suitable statistical adjustments for the ends.

The team notes that although “some losses due to extreme heat are inevitable, it is misleading to assume that impacts are inevitable” and add that adaptation to extreme heat can be effective in reducing mortality.

Thus, action plans against heat, which include alerts and early actions, messages of awareness and behaviour change, and supportive public services “can reduce mortality”

The team notes that although “some losses due to extreme heat are inevitable, it is misleading to assume that impacts are inevitable” and add that adaptation to extreme heat can be effective in reducing mortality.

Thus, action plans against heat that include alerts and early actions, messages of awareness and behaviour change, and supportive public services “can reduce mortality.”

Wahid Bhat
Wahid Bhat
The Author is a Journalist based in Jammu and Kashmir. He writes on environment-related issues, Climate Change in South Asia.

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