A deadly heatwave has placed an “unprecedented burden” on India’s agriculture, economy and public health, with climate change undermining the country’s long-term efforts to reduce poverty, inequality and disease, according to a new study.
Extreme heat has killed more than 24,000 people since 1992 and fueled air pollution and accelerated glacial melt in northern India, according to the study, led by Ramit Debnath of the University of Cambridge, on Wednesday.
India now “faces a collision of multiple, cumulative climate hazards”, with extreme weather occurring almost daily from January to October last year, the study said. It added that extreme heat put 80 percent of India’s 1.4 billion people at risk.
The peer-reviewed study shows that India’s lawmakers and officials underestimated the full extent of the damage caused by India’s intense heat, which killed, sickened, closed schools and failed crops, and slowed the country’s development.
“It’s important to figure out how we measure vulnerability to frequent extreme events,” Debnath told Reuters, adding that the Indian government’s own “Climate Vulnerability Index” is thought to underestimate the impact of longer, earlier and more frequent heat waves. Impact of climate change. develop.
He warned that 90% of India’s total area is currently in the extreme heat danger zone, and the country is not fully prepared.
“India has done a lot to reduce heat — they are now actually looking at heat waves as part of their disaster relief plan,” he said. “But the pace of these programs needs to be optimized.”
“Adaptation measures on paper are very important … I think they have a very solid plan, but that’s how they’re implemented.”
The researchers also warned that the heatwave was undercutting India’s efforts to meet its “Social Development Goals,” a United Nations list of 17 goals aimed at reducing poverty, hunger, inequality and disease.
Ultimately, extreme heat could lead to a 15 percent reduction in “outside work capacity” by 2050, reducing the quality of life of as many as 480 million people and costing 2.8 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), they said.
Productivity losses from extreme heat could have cost India 5.4% of GDP, according to a climate transparency report by the environmental group last year.
India has already experienced extreme temperatures this year, with some states in the midst of another heatwave.
At least 11 people died and several others fell ill while attending an outdoor event organized by the Maharashtra state government on the outskirts of Mumbai on Sunday. The temperature was close to 38 degrees Celsius (100 degrees Fahrenheit) with high humidity that day, according to local media reports.
The eastern state of West Bengal closed all schools and colleges this week because of the scorching heat. February this year was recorded as India’s hottest month in 122 years.
Aditya Valiathan Pillai, an associate research fellow at the Center for Policy Studies, a think tank in New Delhi, said the study “highlights that heat risk is another layer of risk that is emerging rapidly”.
Pillay recently looked at India’s readiness for extreme heat.
The new study does make a useful link between increasing heat and its impact on India’s development, but the study’s data set — which focused only on last April’s temperature — was limited, Pillai said.
Still, it’s encouraging to see more research published on the effects of heat on India’s population, he said.
More and more states are burning out in extreme temperatures, and already hot-pressed regions are experiencing increasing numbers of days at near-uninhabitable temperatures.
“For India as a whole, the threshold for adaptation to heat and other climate impacts will be reached in a few decades,” Pillay said. “For some people, especially the poor, these limits have been reached.”