The Indian government has just released a report showing the consequences of the heatwave with extreme temperatures that just ended in the country. It was the hottest summer on record, with a record number of extreme temperature days. Projections show the country will be one of the hardest hit by global warming, but it is struggling to protect its poor populations from the effects of higher temperatures.
India recorded 203 days of extreme temperature, a record in its history. This number is five times that of 2021. A heat wave is technically declared when the minimum temperature exceeds 45 degrees Celsius for at least two consecutive days.
The Indian government arrived at this number by adding up different extreme days experienced by about 20 regions, so multiple heat waves can occur on the same day. The north of the country was worst hit, particularly Rajasthan, or Punjab, on the border with Pakistan, with nearly 25 days of extreme temperatures in four months, six times more than in 2021.
This is part of a clear global warming trend. For the past 50 years, each decade has been warmer and more intense than the previous year. Between 2010 and 2020, India recorded twice as many warm days than in the previous ten years.
This year, the mercury soared to 49 degrees Celsius, an unprecedented temperature in New Delhi. This unfortunately follows predictions by the UN IPCC Climate Panel, which has warned that the Indian subcontinent will be one of the areas most affected by climate change.
Uncontrolled urbanization creates “heat islands”.
Under a possible extreme scenario of 2°C global warming it would be impossible to work outside for more than half the year in most parts of the country. To respond to emergencies like this, the government has formulated a National Health Action Plan, which is taking time to implement.
In terms of adaptation, the task is difficult: authorities must deal with rapid urban migration. This is done by quickly building concrete towers, which trap heat and therefore provide air conditioning – but these machines release heat into the city.
On the other hand, the poorest migrants settle in slums, in poorly ventilated houses, and are the first victims of these heat waves.
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