Climate Change

Heat waves likely to last ‘25 times longer’ in India by another 2-4 decades, says climate report

 The heatwaves will last over five times longer if global temperature rise is constrained to about 2°C, says report launched ahead of G20 summit

By Jayanta Basu
Published: Thursday 28 October 2021

The heatwaves in India are likely to “last 25 times longer by 2036-2065” if carbon emissions remain high and push global temperature rise to 4 degrees Celsius by the end of the century, according to an international climate report published October 28, 2021 covering G20 countries.

The report was launched ahead of the G20 summit to be held in Rome on October 30 and 31. It is likely to push a global emission cut agenda during the discussion, scheduled to be attended by several global leaders, including Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The G20 is an inter-governmental forum comprising 19 countries and the European Union (EU). It works to address major economical issues, including those related to international financial stability, climate change mitigation and sustainable development.

No country is immune to climate change

Climate change will have devastating impacts on every G20 member, the report said. It was conducted by a team of over 40 scientists at Euro-Mediterranean Center on Climate Change, a research centre that serves as the Italian focal point for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

“Climate impacts are already hitting the G20. Over the last 20 years, heat-related deaths have increased by at least 15 per cent in all G20 countries, while forest fires have burnt an area one-and-a-half times the size of Canada,” the report warned.

The report also pointed out that “from rising sea levels to plummeting freshwater availability, from spreading dengue to spiking heat deaths, no aspect of life in G20 countries will be untouched by climate change”.

The report added: “The impacts of climate change will spiral to tear through the world’s richest economies within 30 years, without urgent action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions … from droughts, heat waves and sea level rise, to dwindling food supplies and threats to tourism … no country is immune”.

The report said the G20 needs to rapidly cut its emissions, which account for 80 per cent global greenhouse gas emissions, to stabilise economies.

India among the worst affected

 “India is has several climatic hotspots. From nearly 7,500-kilometers-long coastal belt to the Himalayas spreading over so many states in north and eastern India; to about 54 per cent arid areas being prone to heatwaves — India stands extremely vulnerable and the situation may worsen quickly unless immediate actions are taken,” said Anjal Prakash, a climate scientist. He was among the lead authors of the latest IPCC report.

Heat waves will last 25 times longer by 2036-2065 in India if emissions push towards a global temperature rise of 4°C under business-as-usual global emission scenario.

The heatwaves will last “over five times longer if global temperature rise is constrained to about 2°C, and one and a half times longer if emissions are very low and temperature rise only reaches 1.5°C”.

The rising heat is also likely to affect the livelihoods with total labour output expected to decline by 13.4 per cent under a low emissions scenario by 2050 due to the increase in heat, and by 24% under a medium emissions scenario by 2080. The impacts will be far harsh in case of higher emission scenarios.

Considering the 4 degree Celsius rise pathway, water demand for agriculture is likely to rise around about 29 per cent by 2050 and agricultural drought will become 48 per cent more frequent by 2036-2065; but the later will drop to 20 percent during same time scale in case of a 2 degree C rise scenario.

Similarly potential fish catch could fall 8.8 per cent by 2050 if emissions are low, and 17.1 per cent if they are high.

Developmental gains may be neutralised by climatic impacts

Without any mitigation, climate change could severely undermine the development gains made in India in recent decades, says the report.

“In a moderate climate change scenario, India is projected to potentially lose between 0.8 and 2 per cent of its gross domestic product by mid-century. Costs could double, reaching up to almost 10 per cent of the GDP (or 237 billion EUR) under a high emissions scenario,” the report read.

Close to 18 million Indians could be at risk of river flooding by 2050 if emissions are high — a nearly 15-fold rise compared to 1.3 million today.

Excess mortality will increase by 10 per cent by 2100 under a high emission release scenario. This is equivalent to 1.54 million excess deaths per year.

 “Under a medium-emissions scenario, this number is projected to decline by 80 per cent,” the report said.

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