Scorching April heat flags climate ABYSS

Global warming seems to have jumped out of academic conference rooms and doomsday predictions of climate activists to bite much of north and central India and Pakistan.

Published: 08th May 2022 07:59 AM  |   Last Updated: 08th May 2022 07:59 AM   |  A+A-

Sourav Roy

Global warming seems to have jumped out of academic conference rooms and doomsday predictions of climate activists to bite much of north and central India and Pakistan. April saw scorching heat conditions, which according to the Indian Metrological Department (IMD), was the most intense in 122 years. The heat wave has enveloped over 1.5bn people across borders, and governments are worried at the toll it has taken on lives and crops.

Banda in East UP logged a record high of 47.4 degree C on April 29, while several regions including Allahabad, and Gurugram in the national capital region and Chandrapur in central India have all crossed 46-deg C mark. An assessment by the Centre for Science and Environment said the heat wave started around March 11 and has enveloped as many as 11 states. In Pakistan’s Baluchistan region, temperatures are close to 50 deg C, unknown in this period of the year. Work is at a standstill as people don’t leave their homes; and frequent power and water supply breakdowns have made things worse.

Disruptions are widespread in India too. Many schools have been closed and power outages have become common as thermal power plants are not able to cope with the 9% spike in power demand. One of the reasons is coal supply to 108 of the 173 thermal plants are critically low. As much as 75% of India’s power is still sourced from coal-fired plants, and the Railways rushing coal cargo to these plants has led to the cancellation of 1,100 passenger trains till the end of May. 

Local weather systems fail 
The immediate reasons, according to weather experts, for the above-normal heat conditions is the lack of what they call ‘western disturbances’ in the north-west region of the Indian subcontinent. These low pressure ‘disturbances’ create light rainfall and thundershowers keeping the summer heat in check. However, the 4 episodes or ‘western disturbances’ this year between March and April, were low grade and not enough to bring down temperatures substantially this year. 

D Sivananda Pai of Kottayam-based Institute for Climate Change Studies said periodic ‘anti-cyclones’ over western parts of Rajasthan in March exacerbated the situation. Anticyclones cause hot and dry weather by sinking winds around high-pressure systems.

The ongoing heatwave has taken a toll on the rural economy. In the north-western states, especially Punjab and Haryana, wheat crop yields have dropped by over 50% in areas experiencing extreme temperatures. From Himachal Pradesh in India to Baluchistan’s Mustang district, fruit crops, especially apple and peach orchards, have been decimated. Apple trees bore blooms nearly a month in advance, and then withered away with the heat without bearing fruit. 

Global warming playing out
Though local weather systems have been responsible for the intense April heat, there is no doubt it is the long-term impact of Climate Change and Global Warming that is playing out. The UN Study by the Intergovernment Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), published this February, looks at the causes, impact and solutions to climate change; and is a lucid analysis of how a warmer world is endangering all the living things on Earth.

The report explains how extreme weather events linked to climate change like floods and heatwaves are hitting humans and other species much harder than previous assessments indicated.Between 2010 and 2020, 15 times more people died from floods, droughts and storms in very vulnerable regions including parts of Africa, South Asia and Central and South America, than in other parts of the world.

Sherry Rehman, Pakistan’s minister for climate, told ‘The Guardian’ of UK that the heatwave was melting glaciers in the north of the country at extraordinary speed, and that thousands were at risk of being caught in flash floods. She also said that the sizzling temperatures were not only impacting crops but water supply as well. “Our big dams are at dead level right now, and sources of water are scarce,” she said.

The positive side of the IPCC report is that it still holds out a window of opportunity that, if the world’s government’s and civic leaders act in time to keep global warming within 1.5 deg C of pre-industrial 1850 levels, there is hope for reversing the trend. For this greenhouse gas emissions need to peak by 2025 and then fall 43% by 2030 to touch 2019 levels. 

To lower emissions, the age of fossil fuels must end. Coal use must drop 95% by 2050 on 2019 levels, oil by 60% and gas 45%to meet the 1.5°C goal, says Jan Christoph Minx, one of the authors of the IPCC report. Unfortunately, governments including the India’s, are not doing enough. But then that is another story.

Record-high temperatures 
Banda in East UP logged a record high of 47.4o C on April 29, while several regions including Allahabad, Gurugram in the NCR and Chandrapur in central India have all crossed the 46o C mark.  In Pakistan’s Baluchistan region, temperatures are close to 50o C.

50%
In north-western states, especially Punjab and Haryana, wheat yields have dropped by over 50% in areas experiencing extreme temperatures



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