South Asia population in danger because of heat waves
If the global warming continues, heat waves will make parts of South Asia in a hell by the end of this century.
A combination of extreme heat and high humidity will take dangerous forms for residents in dense populations in India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.
This is predicted by American scientists in the scientific magazine Science Advances.
The researchers, who earlier published an alarming study of future heat waves in the Persian Gulf area, focused mainly on the lowlands of the Ganges and the Indus – with more than one billion inhabitants one of the most densely populated areas in the world.
This publication is even more disturbing than the previous one, especially because of the size and vulnerability of the population in this part of the world,” said Elfatih Eltahir, one of the authors. In South Asia are many poor farmers working in the open air. It is a region where extreme risks and extreme vulnerability come together.’
With computer simulations, scientists showed that in the north of India and in parts of Pakistan and Bangladesh, the heat limit in which human survival is impossible, will be approached as climate change continues during the last three decades of this century.
With unchanged policy, large areas will be at great heat risk because of the heat which will be dangerous for many people. In megacities such as Lucknow and Patna – and in Bangladesh, the limit that people can not survive, will even be exceeded!
In their calculations, American researchers took notice of the expected temperatures and the humidity. As a measure, they used the so-called wet-bulb temperature, a unity that calculates the humidity of the air. The higher the temperature, the more effort it takes to sweat and cool the body.
According to US scientists, the survival limit is during a wet bulb temperature of 35 degrees Celsius. This can be a combination of a temperature above 40 or 50 degrees Celsius and a relative humidity of more than 50 percent. Under these circumstances, the body can not discharge its heat anymore.
For all of us, even for healthy people, exposure of several hours to such temperature and humidity will be fatal. For less healthy persons, wet-bulb temperatures lower than 35 degrees may also be life threatening.
In the delta region of the Ganges and the Indus, one of the warmest regions on earth, the humidity is relatively high. This is due to the supply of hot, humid air from the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Bengal. Irrigation in large agricultural areas also contributes to the moisture grade in the air. In the past few years, already thousands of people died because of heat waves. In 2015, 3500 people died of a heat wave encountering these countries.
The researchers described the effects of two scenarios:
- One doing nothing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions which will result in a global warming with 4.5 degrees Celsius this century
- One when the global warming is limited to 2.25 degrees
According to the second scenario, which more or less corresponds with the Paris agreements, the deadly limit of 35 degrees wet-bulb temperature will be avoided and less people in the South of Asia will be living in a danger zone.
30% of the South Asian population in danger
Without limitation of greenhouse gases, 30 percent of South Asian population will be affected by heat waves where wet bulb temperatures will reach 31 degrees and more. This is very dangerous to many people. If emissions are limited – the second scenario – it will affect less than 2 percent of the population.
Eltahir: ‘Measuring climate change will have important positive consequences for people in the most vulnerable part of the world’s population.’
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