Are parts of India becoming too hot for humans?

Are parts of India becoming too hot for humans?

Intense heat waves have killed more than 100 people in India this summer and are predicted to worsen in coming years, creating a possible humanitarian crisis as large parts of the country potentially become too hot to be inhabitable.

Heat waves in India usually take place between March and July and abate once the monsoon rains arrive. But in recent years these hot spells have become more intense, more frequent and longer. India is among the countries expected to be worst affected by the impacts of the climate crisis, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Experts at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) say that even if the world succeeds in cutting carbon emissions, limiting the predicted rise in average global temperatures, parts of India will become so hot they will test the limits of human survivability.”The future of heat waves is looking worse even with significant mitigation of climate change, and much worse without mitigation,” said Elfatih Eltahir, a professor of hydrology and climate at  MIT.

When the heat rises

The Indian government declares a heat wave when temperatures reach at least 4.5 degrees Celsius (8.1 Fahrenheit) above the “normal” temperature for that area for at least two days.

A heat wave becomes “severe” when temperatures climb to 6.4 degrees Celsius (11.5 Fahrenheit) above normal for at least two days. Thresholds for heat waves, therefore, differ across the country — in the capital New Delhi, a heat wave is declared after two consecutive days of temperatures of at least 45 degrees Celsius (113 Fahrenheit).

Last year, there were 484 official heat waves across India, up from 21 in 2010. During that period, more than 5,000 people died. This year’s figures show little respite.

What is the government doing about it?

India is still in the initial stages of developing a robust nationwide Heat Action Plan. The Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) is working with state health departments to create an early warning system that would notify millions of people by text message about ways to stay cool when heat waves hit.The city of Ahmedabad, in Gujarat, introduced the country’s first action plan in 2013, and its text messages, extra drinking stations, and advice to keep out of the sun are credited with saving more than 2,000 lives. At the same time, India is seeking long-term solutions.

Last month, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s administration announced plans to add 500 gigawatts of renewable energy to the country’s power grid by 2030. By that year, renewable energy should account for at least 40% of India’s installed power capacity. The country is also planting forests to help mop up carbon emissions.

Climate Action Tracker, a site that analyzes countries’ progress, says India is making good headway but could do more by reducing its reliance on coal power stations. A report by India’s Central Electricity Authority released this week found that coal power could still account for half of India’s power generation in 2030, despite the country’s investments in solar power. Given the more frequent heat waves and dire future predictions, capping a rise in global temperatures could very well turn out to be India’s most important challenge in decades ahead. The survivability of more than a billion people is at stake.

Source: CNN

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