India is on fire, plunged into an extreme heat wave with temperatures around 50ºC, which is also affecting Pakistan. For scientists, this is just the beginning of a global process that will make 20 percent of the Earth uninhabitable, causing famine, mortality, migration and irreparable damage to ecosystems. It could also cause the collapse of our civilization, as happened more than 800 years ago.
The planet is experiencing a new episode of extreme heat that is affecting India and Pakistan, two countries where around 1.6 billion people live. Chandra Bhushanone of the greatest climate experts in the country, has come to describe the situation with a gloomy phrase: India is burning.
“Temperatures and heat waves have increased markedly since the 1980s. Each of the last four decades has been progressively warmer than the previous decade. The last decade (2011-2020) has been the warmest since they began records in 1901, and 11 of the 15 hottest years have been recorded between 2007 and 2021”, adds Bhushan.
The new wave of extreme heat, spring and especially intense, began in mid-April, lasted until the end of the month and will last until May, with temperatures that are up to 8.5ºC above normal in the East, Central and Northwest of the country, reaching in Uttar Pradesh 45.9ºC (maximum temperature), while in other parts 44ºC was generalized.
The impact of these episodes has been immediate, causing heat-related illnesses, poor air quality, little rainfall and reduced crop yields, NASA notes.
For people living in these countries, the heat wave is associated with high relative humidity, and when temperatures exceed 35ºC in high humidity, the consequences are lethal: people cannot control their internal temperature, sweat does not evaporate and can produce a fatal systemic failure.
In addition, power demand has soared and coal reserves have dwindled, leaving the country with its worst electricity shortage in more than six years. All this in the middle of 300 major forest fires distributed throughout the country (which have been reduced to 111 as of May 1) and of successive episodes of hot dust storms.
According to the meteorologist Scott Duncanthe temperature will exceed 50°C in Pakistanwhere 49ºC have already been reached, one of the highest temperatures ever recorded on Earth in the month of April, emphasizes US Storm Watch.
NASA explains that a large-scale weather pattern has maintained a dry and unusually warm air mass over both countries, which is what has caused this episode of extreme heat.
Extreme temperatures are not exclusive to Asia, they are also being recorded in Greenland, Antarctica and Australia: globally, 19 of all the warmest years on Earth have occurred since 2000, NASA notes.
just the beginning
The one in India and Pakistan is an unusual heat wave, an absolute record, he explains to Tendencias21 Ferdinand Valladaresdoctor in Biology, researcher at the Higher Council for Scientific Research and associate professor at the Rey Juan Carlos University in Madrid.
He adds that, like the sixth generation wildfiresin which the fire can exceed a speed of 4,000 hectares per hour, and which have already occurred in Australia and California, episodes such as those in India and Pakistan are a anticipation of uncertain climate scenarios that lie in wait for the human speciesassociated with high polluting emissions: carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere are at their highest point for 650,000 years (417.31 parts per million or ppm), warns NASA.
Valladares also indicates that episodes such as the one affecting India and Pakistan they will fall shorteven if the goal of the Paris Agreements of limiting global warming to 2ºC above pre-industrial levels is maintained, although in reality it is quite likely that we will reach 3ºC.
It also specifies that, at the end of this century, a quarter of the earth’s surface will be uninhabitable for humanssince deserts will grow by around 20 percent: without energy availability and technology to create microclimates, there will be migrations, mortality, damage to ecosystems and serious problems that we are already aware of, Valladares says.
Jose Miguel Vinasair physicist and meteorologist in weatheredconsulted by T21, adds that this episode of extreme heat fits into the framework of current global warming, with a growing tendency to increase in frequency and intensity in many regions of the Earth.
Europe is not exempt from these risks: the European Center’s seasonal forecast projects a May-June-July quarter with temperatures markedly above average in much of Europe. If this prediction comes true, there will be a heat wave, adds Viñas.
These episodes of heat waves are becoming more frequent and come to certify what science has been saying for years, highlights in turn Susana BayoPhysics specialized in atmosphere and environment.
An effect that seems silenced and that we must begin to say loud and clear is that climate change increases mortality risk for all the consequences it has, and that directly affect every living being on the planet, Bayo concludes in statements to T21.
Impacts on food supply
The effect of all these local episodes will put pressure on the global food supply, as droughts and heat waves become more frequent in the future, according to a study published last September in Nature Food.
The study analyzes historical data to project how drier heat waves will affect corn and soybean fields around the world: The portion of a crop that can be harvested and sold may fall by 5% globally between 2050 and 2100, due to a combination of drier and warmer weather.
Another study, published last January in Earth Future, found that the poorest regions of the world (such as India or Pakistan) will be two to five times more exposed to heat waves than the richest countries, in the 2060s.
It adds that while rich countries can buffer their risk by investing quickly in measures to adapt to climate change, the poorest quarter of the world’s population, the areas likely to take the longest to adapt, will face a risk of heat every greater time.
And all this is happening at a time when spending on weapons has skyrocketed, as a result of the Russian invasion of Ukrainewithout the investments in measures to alleviate the effects of the planetary crisis on human beings arousing an equivalent interest in the institutions, highlights the sociologist Alicia Montesdeoca.
Earth’s climate has changed throughout history. In the last 650,000 years alone, there have been seven cycles of advancing and retreating glaciers, and the abrupt end of the last ice age some 11,700 years ago marked the beginning of the modern climatic era and the human civilization.
Most of these climate changes are attributed to very small variations in the Earth’s orbit that change the amount of solar energy our planet receives, explains NASA, and they are becoming a clear threat to life on our planet.
Collapse in sight? has already happened
the professor Edward Costas remember that one heat wave wiped out the great civilizations of the Bronze Ageas explained by Eric H. Cline in his famous book “1177: The Year Civilization Collapsed” (Crítica, 2016).
In a situation relatively similar to the current one, this climatic exception caused famines and mass migrations, and 90 percent of the cities were abandoned. This situation changed the social panorama of the ancient civilizations, Hittites, Mycenaeans, Trojans, Assyrians, except that of Egypt, and caused their collapse in less than 10 years.. It is very likely that at the present time we are witnessing a similar collapse of our civilizationCoasts sentence. We have 10 years left to dissipate that riskhe concludes.