In this era of climate emergency, not a year goes by without another extreme, unprecedented and terrifying weather event. Right now, it’s a heatwave. On June 29, Lytton, a small mountain town in Canada, recorded an incredible temperature of 49.6 degrees Celsius. Seattle in the United States, at the same latitude as Lytton, recorded 42.2 degrees Celsius. Portland in the United States recorded an incredible 46.6 degrees Celsius.
Places like these simply don’t suffer from heat waves, especially record high temperatures like these. Earlier in June, cities in the United Arab Emirates, Iran and Kuwait recorded temperatures above 50 degrees Celsius. In Islamabad, Pakistan, several schoolchildren passed out during a severe heat wave in early June.
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And what about India? The monsoon appears to have stopped and, in particular, has failed in Delhi after initially pledging to reach the capital 12 days ahead of schedule. Intense heatwave conditions persist even as Delhi recorded its highest temperature this year, 43.5 degrees Celsius, on June 30.
In many parts of the world, especially in the northern hemisphere, the maximum summer heat exceeds the limits of human tolerance.
Last year, Living room examined how India suffers from the dual scourge of extreme heat and chronic heat, both of which are caused and exacerbated by climate change. This summer, we’re seeing many of the same symptoms, including high wet bulb temperatures, a deadly combination of extreme heat and humidity, with no respite in sight.
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All of this makes continued climate inaction at the national and international levels all the more frustrating. It is now well known that the window of time for crucial action to eliminate new carbon emissions heating the planet is rapidly narrowing. However, emissions are actually on the rise. And the pace of global warming is accelerating.
At the end of May, a report from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) indicated that there was a 40% chance that at least one of the next five years would be 1.5 degrees Celsius warmer than in pre-industrial times ( 1850-1900). The 2015 Paris climate agreement aimed to prevent the world from crossing the 1.5 degree Celsius mark by 2100. But with the world already 1.2 degrees Celsius hotter than pre-industrial times, all bets are open.
One fact that often gets lost in the global rhetoric about limiting warming to between 1.5 degrees Celsius (best case) and 2 degrees Celsius (worst case) by 2100 is that even a 1.5 degree increase will be catastrophic. for many parts of the world. Since we are talking about global averages here, an overall increase of 1.5 degrees Celsius would mean that in real terms many regions will be much warmer than that. The Himalayas, for example, would warm by more than 2 degrees Celsius against a global average rise of 1.5 degrees Celsius. If we continue on our current path as usual, the Himalayas will see temperatures soar by a catastrophic 5 degrees Celsius.
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According to the 2018 “1.5 degree” report of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, with a warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius, 14% of the planet’s population will be exposed to severe heat waves at least once every five years. With a warming of 2 degrees Celsius, this figure will rise to 37%. Even if global warming is limited to 1.5-2 degrees Celsius by 2100, 350 million more people will be under heat stress by 2050. The 2015 heat wave that killed more than 2,400 people in India will become an annual event with a warming of 2 degrees Celsius. Right now, the world is on track to achieve a warming of 3 degrees Celsius or more by 2100. We should be very scared.