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The devastating heat wave in South Asia is a “sign of what lies ahead” in the face of climate change

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NEW DELHI (AP) – The devastating heat that has engulfed India and Pakistan in recent months has become more likely due to climate change and is a glimpse of the region’s future, international scientists said in a study published Monday.

The World Weather Attribution Group has analyzed historical weather data that suggest that early long heat waves affecting a large geographical area are rare events that occur once a century. But the current level of global warming caused by human-induced climate change has made these heat waves 30 times more likely.

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If global warming increases by 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) more than at pre-industrial levels, heat waves like this could occur twice a century and up to once every five years, said Arpita Mondal, a climatologist with Indian Institute. technology in Mumbai who participated in the study.

“It’s a sign of what’s ahead,” Mondall said.

The results are conservative: an analysis released last week by the UK Meteorological Service said the heat wave was probably 100 times more likely due to climate change, with such scorching temperatures likely to recur every three years.

The analysis of global weather attribution differs in that it attempts to calculate how much global warming has increased the likelihood of specific aspects of a heat wave, such as the duration and the region affected. “The real result is probably somewhere between our and the UK’s Office of Meteorology on how much climate change has led to this event,” said Frederick Otto, a climatologist at Imperial College London who was also involved in the study.

However, the destruction caused by the heat wave is indisputable. In recent weeks in Indian cities and Pakistan the air temperature has consistently exceeded 45 degrees Celsius (113 degrees Phase). In Pakistan, high temperatures above 50 degrees Celsius have been recorded in some places, such as Jacobabad and Dadu. In some parts of the Indian capital New Delhi this month, temperatures reached 49 degrees Celsius.

India has experienced the hottest March in the country since recording began in 1901, and April was the warmest of all time in Pakistan and parts of India. The consequences were cascading and widespread: a glacier exploded in Pakistan, causing flooding downstream; early heat burned wheat crops in India, forcing it to ban exports to countries experiencing food shortages due to Russia’s war in Ukraine; it also led to an early surge in electricity demand in India, which depleted coal reserves, leading to an acute shortage of electricity that affected millions of people.

Then there is the impact on human health. At least 90 people have died in the two countries, but insufficient registration of deaths in the region means it is likely an understatement. South Asia has suffered the most from heat stress, according to an Associated Press analysis of a data set published by Columbia University Climate School. India alone has more than a third of the world’s population living in areas where extreme heat is on the rise.

Experts agree that the heat wave underscores the need for the world not only to combat climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but also to adapt to it harmful effects as soon as possible. Children and the elderly are most at risk of heat stress, but its effects are also unusually greater for the poor, who may not have access to cooling or water and often live in crowded slums, hotter than in more affluent areas.

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Rahman Ali, 42, a pickpocket in the eastern suburbs of the Indian capital of New Delhi, earns less than $ 3 a day by collecting waste from people’s homes and sorting it to save everything that can be sold. It is a difficult job, and his house with a tin roof in crowded slums does not allow you to relax from the heat.

“What can we do? If I don’t work… we won’t eat,” said the father of two.

Some Indian cities have been trying to find solutions. The western city of Ahmedabad was the first in South Asia to develop a heat plan for its population of more than 8.4 million people, back in 2013. The plan includes an early warning system that tells health workers and residents to prepare for the heat. , allows administrations to keep parks open so people can shade, and provides information to schools so they can adjust their schedules.

The city has also tried to “cool” roofs by experimenting with different materials that absorb heat differently. Their goal is to build roofs that will reflect the sun and lower the room temperature using white reflective paint or cheaper materials such as dried grass, said Dr. Dilip Mavalankar, who heads the Indian Institute of Public Health in Gandhinagar in the west India. helped develop a plan for 2013.

Most Indian cities are less prepared, and the Indian federal government is now working with 130 cities in 23 heat-prone states to develop similar plans. Earlier this month, the federal government also asked states to inform health professionals about the treatment of heat-related illnesses, and to ensure that hospitals have ice packs, oral salts for rehydration and cooling.

But Mavalankar, who was not involved in the study, pointed to the lack of government warnings in newspapers or television for most Indian cities and said local administrations simply did not “wake up from the heat.”

The Associated Press Department of Health and Science receives support from the Department of Science Education of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. AP is fully responsible for all content.

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