The Indian government has just submitted a report outlining the consequences of a heat wave with extreme temperatures just over in the country. This summer was the hottest on record, setting a record number of days with extreme temperatures. Projections suggest the country will be one of the hardest hit by global warming, but it is struggling to try to protect the poorest population from the effects of rising temperatures.
India recorded 203 days of extreme temperatures, a record in its history. The number is five times what it was in 2021. A heat wave is technically declared when low temperatures exceed 45 degrees Celsius for at least two consecutive days.
The Indian government arrived at this number by summing up the different extreme days experienced by about 20 regions, so multiple heat waves can occur on the same day. The north of the country is clearly the hardest hit, particularly Rajasthan or Punjab on the Pakistani border, with maximum temperatures of around 25 days in four months, six times what they were in 2021.
This is part of a clear trend of global warming. Over the past 50 years, each decade has been warmer and more extreme than the last. Between 2010 and 2020, India recorded twice as many hot days as the previous 10 years.
And this year, the mercury rose to 49 degrees Celsius, an unprecedented temperature in New Delhi. This unfortunately follows the forecasts of the United Nations Climate Panel of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which warns that the Indian subcontinent will be one of the regions most affected by climate change.
Uncontrolled urbanization creates ‘heat islands’
In the extreme case of a potential global warming of 2°C, it would be impossible to work outdoors for more than half the year in most parts of the country. To respond to emergencies like these, the government has drawn up a National Health Action Plan, which takes time to implement.
In terms of adaptation, the task is difficult: the authorities have to manage rapid urban migration. This is done by quickly building concrete towers, which trap heat and are therefore equipped with air conditioning – but these machines release heat to the city.
On the other hand, the poorest immigrants settle in slums, in poorly ventilated housing, and they are the first victims of these heat waves.
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