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article imageIndia facing severe and fatal heatwaves with global warming

By Karen Graham     Jun 8, 2017 in Environment
Increasingly severe heat waves brought on by global warming will lead to greater heat-related mortality rates in India and other Asian nations, according to researchers at the University of California at Irvine.
There has been a very modest 0.5 degree Celsius increase in annual temperatures in India over the last 50 years, leading to a 146 percent increase in heatwaves that kill at least 100 people or more.
With rising global temperatures, the world has seen an increase in the severity and frequency of extreme climatic events, including flooding, droughts, and heatwaves. And with India now on a path to a temperature rise of between 2.2 and 5.5 degrees Celsius over the next few decades, the number of deaths in India other Asian countries where millions of people live in poverty will likely soar.
Standardized trends show the correspondence among the three variables. In years when heat wave days ...
Standardized trends show the correspondence among the three variables. In years when heat wave days (yellow) and summer mean temperature (red) are above average, heat-related deaths also spike upward.
Science Advances
Researchers at the University of California at Irvine decided to look at the progression and intensity of heatwaves in India dating back to 1960. The study also looked at the rise in deaths as heatwaves increased in intensity and more significantly, the vulnerability of the population that will be most impacted, those living in poverty.
"I was taken aback by how large the increase in the likelihood of these mass mortality events was with a modest increase in temperature," said Steven J. Davis, an earth systems science professor at the University and one of the authors of the report, published in the journal Science Advances.
Government figures released last year showed more than 300 million people in India -- the world&apos...
Government figures released last year showed more than 300 million people in India -- the world's fastest-growing major economy -- still had no access to electricity.
Money Sharma, AFP/File
And with temperatures forecast to rise across much of the world by the end of the century, higher heat levels and more extreme heat events are expected. These higher heat events "may make low-latitude developing nations in the Asian subcontinent, the Middle East, Africa and South America practically uninhabitable during the summer months", the report noted.
The study showed that since 2009, heat waves in India killed more than 1,300 people in 2010, 1,500 in 2013, and 2,500 in 2015 as the summers progressively grew hotter. And these numbers are probably understated because, in rural areas, many deaths go unreported.
The study points out that access to electricity, primarily for air conditioning, can help to curb deaths, however, fully 25 percent of Indians lack electricity and nearly a quarter of Indians earn less than $1.25 a day and can't afford electricity. But this is just one factor that impacts people in India.
The Oshiwara River in Mumbai are severely polluted with solid and liquid wastes generated by Mumbai....
The Oshiwara River in Mumbai are severely polluted with solid and liquid wastes generated by Mumbai. Most of India's surface water is not safe to drink.
Jan jörg
The poor also have trouble finding clean water to drink or shelter, and then there are health conditions that can be aggravated by the heat. It should be noted that India's government is trying to get electrical power to the whole population by 2019 in an effort to cope with the rising heat, but this is a big order for 1.3 billion people.
"Access to air conditioning and electricity is key to address heat-caused mortality and that requires significant investment," said Amir AghaKouchak, one of the report's authors, according to Reuters. "India's government is trying, they're doing great. But the population is also growing. It's not an easy challenge."
More about India, heatwaves, Global warming, Mortality, climate extremes
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