Representational Image.

(Nalam Kanaka/BCCL)

Over the last few years, we would often find ourselves commenting on how hot the summers have gotten and how much warmer the weather is than the previous years. Turns out, this isn’t just something people say during the summers, and there is actual truth attached to this blanket statement. And if the recent Greenpeace report on India’s heatwave trends is anything to go by, things are only about to get worse.

In a report titled “India: Heatwave trends in a changing climate”, the nonprofit Greenpeace India assessed the rise in average temperatures over the past decades across major cities across the country, and the results are frankly alarming.

The report presented three probable scenarios — a world with net-zero emissions after 2050, one where the carbon emissions remain unchanged, and another where the CO2 emissions double by the year 2050.

Projections for the worst-case scenario

Delhi: If global CO2 emissions double by 2050, the mean annual temperature in Delhi will be five degrees higher in 2080-99 than in 1995-2014. The yearly maximum temperature in the national capital is 41.93°C (median of June month records from 1995 to 2014). In the 2080-99 period, it will rise to 45.97°C, with “certain extreme years” reaching 48.19°C, according to the NGO.

Mumbai and Pune: Between 2080 and 2099, the Maharashtrian cities will be five degrees warmer than now on average, and the maximum temperature will be 4.2°C higher. In some extreme years, the maximum temperature can go up to 45.4°C.

Chennai: The Tamil Nadu capital will be four degrees warmer than now on average during the final two decades of the twenty-first century. The maximum temperature will be 3.7°C higher, and in some extreme years, the daytime temperatures can touch 40.6°C.

Health hazards of maximum temperatures crossing the 35°C mark

Sweating’s cooling effect does not effectively regulate body temperature above a certain level of temperature and relative humidity, resulting in heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heatstrokes.

And a heat index of 35°C is the threshold value for this effect on the body, putting this in the “Extreme Caution” category.

How to prevent such a fate?

Long-term strategies include rooftop gardening, community nutritional gardens, parks, mini forests, roadside tree plantations and water bodies.

Furthermore, governments, corporations and civil society must prioritise just transitions in energy, transportation, agriculture and other sectors to combat climate change. Reduced CO2 emissions, such as shifting to renewables and phase-out of internal combustion engines, help to slow the rate of warming in the long run.

The most realistic and immediate option to fighting climate change and protecting public health is to phase out fossil fuels, notably in energy and transportation networks. The threat will only grow in frequency, duration and scale if nothing is done.

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