Heatwaves and the future

South Asia hosts almost a quarter of the world’s population; and with the region embroiled in deep poverty


March 29, 2021

With high-intensity heatwaves occurring sporadically across South Asia, it is evident that countries near the equator are experiencing the worst of global warming. New research regarding the matter has further revealed distressing results. It is predicted that such events will become all the more common in the coming decade even if global warming is limited to the 1.5 degrees Celsius target set in the Paris Agreement. Furthermore, if the global temperature increases to 2 degrees Celsius, heatwaves will nearly triple in intensity. The future of the region seems rather bleak.

South Asia hosts almost a quarter of the world’s population; and with the region embroiled in deep poverty, the new study highlights the urgency of addressing the issue. The time for evaluations and analyses has passed. Bold actions need to be taken for the safety of millions of people who are currently at the behest of extreme heat. Countries of South Asia need to unite and collectively fight at all international forums. They need to push vigorously to put an international price on carbon since we witnessed that the sudden reduction in carbon emission at the start of the pandemic showed positive signs. Countries contributing the most to global warming need to be restricted and held accountable.

Simultaneously, South Asian governments need to protect their labourers and farmers from the scorching heat like by setting up healthcare camps and installing fans and coolers in affected areas. In this regard, countries need to invest in monitoring centers where environmentalists can compile statistical models of fluctuating temperatures, wind and humidity to predict the next event.

Pakistan has already witnessed the 2015 heatwave tragedy when nearly 2,000 people died from dehydration and heat stroke as temperatures soared to 50 degrees Celsius in parts of the country. Therefore, before another such incident strikes again people need to be made aware of precautionary measures and taught how to react when confronted with an emergency situation. We are at the precipice, and we must act now.

 

Published in The Express Tribune, March 29th, 2021.

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