Alarm bells ring over heat waves - GulfToday

Alarm bells ring over heat waves


The extreme heat conditions prevailing across continents this year have made the issue of climate change more urgent than ever.

A United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) survey of 75,000 people in 77 countries, released on June 20, showed that more people in 62 countries want a quick transition from fossil fuels to green technology because of the climate change implications, including 80 per cent in China and 54 per cent in the United States, the biggest emitters of greenhouse gases.

The survey’s responses gain importance as world leaders meet at Baku in Azerbaijan this November at CoP29. Said UNDP global climate director Cassie Flynn, “As world leaders decide on the next round of pledges under the Paris Agreement by 2025, these results (survey’s opinion) are undeniable evidence that people everywhere support bold climate action.” The extreme heat conditions prevailing across continents this year, from India through Saudi Arabia and Egypt to Greece and Portugal and eastern United States, which has affected the lives of millions of people and caused hundreds of death has made the issue of climate change more urgent than ever. Temperatures are expected to reach 45 Degrees Celsius in Arizona in the United States.

According to World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), one of the next five years will surpass the temperatures of 2023, which has been declared the warmest in 2000 years. It is also expected that if in the pre-industrial era, heatwaves would have occurred once in a decade, the probability is that it will now occur 2.8 times in a decade, and it will be 1.2 Degrees Celsius warmer above the pre-industrial era temperature. If the global temperatures were to cross 2 Degrees Celsius, then the heatwaves would occur 5.6 times in a decade – a little more than every alternate year – and the temperatures would be 2.6 Degrees Celsius hotter. The rise in global temperatures has now moved from the theoretical to the critical zone. Action cannot be deferred any more.

Studies also show that in cities over the US there is the phenomenon called the “heat dome”, where hot air is trapped and there is no way that cool air can break through the barrier. It also means that night temperatures would remain higher making extreme heat the new normal.

Governments and policy-makers are forced to reckon with the question of climate change, and the need to transit to green energy systems from the greenhouse gas emissions-driven fossil fuel energy systems in as quick a time as possible. The net-zero carbon emission target is now placed between 2050 for many countries, and 2070 for others. But the carbon emission curve has to take a dip gradually if the net-zero carbon emission target is to be met.

The other consequences of the rise in the frequency of extreme heat events is that governments are forced to issue public advisories to people as to when they should say inside, and when they can work. This will impact economic activity. Public health systems will be under pressure to handle the impact of the rising frequency of heat waves and the persistence of maximum temperatures. In the India capital, New Delhi, the maximum temperature hovered above 40 Degrees Celsius for 38 consecutive days. It is these long stretches of extreme heat that is raising the alarm in the local authorities as well as among people.

More people and more governments now agree that they have to do more in curbing rising global temperatures. But there is no unanimity as to the action plan. Developed countries are not willing to put their shoulder to the wheel, and help the poor and developing countries to transit to green technologies through financial and technological aid.

Related articles