Going outside could become deadly before the end of this century as it is predicted climate change will cause heat waves across South Asia, where 20% of the world’s population live.
By 2100 carbon emissions that cause global warming are expected to lead to summer high temperatures and humidity far exceeding what humans are able to survive without protection, according to a new report.
And if business continues as usual without “drastic” measures to reduce warming, these patterns could develop as soon as in the next few decades, in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, threatening food supplies for the entire region.
The summer of 2015 saw one of the deadliest heatwaves ever on record in Pakistan and India, killing an estimated 3,500 people, and this could become the new norm as computer simulations predict unprecedented highs.
The human body is not able to cool itself enough to survive more than a few hours spent in a ‘wet-bulb’ (both humidity and heat) temperature of 35 degrees Celcius.
Current ‘wet-bulb’ temperatures on earth rarely exceed 31 degrees.
But the new highs will be averaging around 34.2 degrees, and Elfatih Eltahir. Professor of Environmental Engineering at MIT, who worked on the paper, said: “It brings us close to the threshold…anything in the 30s is very severe.”
And approximately 2% of the population in South Asia, – northern India and eastern China are the two areas of greatest concern, – will be subjected to this limit.
Eltahir has previously produced projections for the Persian Gulf region – the area where the worst heatwaves on the planet are occurring – and survivability limits are set to be exceeded in the next 80 years.
Despite the temperatures there being numerically higher than elsewhere, the death toll is much more concerning in South Asia, because of the ratios of agricultural workers living in poverty and spending time outside without shelter or air conditioning systems that are prevalent in the wealthier gulf areas.
“That makes them very vulnerable to these climatic changes, assuming no mitigation,” said Eltahir.