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Hotter World, Harder Lives: The Global Cost of Extreme Heat


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Extreme weather events, including heatwaves, floods, and droughts, are becoming increasingly common and intense due to climate change. The year 2024 has witnessed a series of such events across the globe, severely impacting health and livelihoods. This article explores how heat damages livelihoods, with a focus on recent data and case studies from various regions.

The Growing Threat of Extreme Heat

According to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), 2024 has seen unprecedented levels of extreme weather, including intense heatwaves. These events are exacerbated by greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels. Last year, the Northern Hemisphere experienced its hottest summer in 2,000 years, and 2024 is on track to surpass that record.

Heatwaves Across Asia and the Middle East

In late April 2024, vast areas of Asia and the Middle East experienced scorching temperatures exceeding 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) for consecutive days. This intense heat was made significantly more likely by human-induced climate change. For instance, in the Philippines, such extreme temperatures would have been impossible without the influence of climate change. In parts of the Middle East, the probability of heatwaves has increased fivefold due to global warming.

Impact on Health

Heatwaves have direct and severe impacts on human health. In April 2024, at least 28 heat-related deaths were reported in Bangladesh, along with five in India and three in Gaza. Surges in heat-related fatalities were also documented in Thailand and the Philippines. Vulnerable populations, such as internally displaced people, migrants, and those in refugee camps, are particularly at risk during extreme heat events.

Agricultural Damage

Heatwaves also devastate agriculture by causing crop damage and reducing yields. This, in turn, threatens food security and the livelihoods of millions who depend on farming. For example, in South Asia, extreme heat during the pre-monsoon season has become more frequent, with temperatures now about 0.85 degrees Celsius (1.5 degrees Fahrenheit) hotter than before due to climate change. This increase in temperature adversely affects crop growth and harvests, leading to economic losses for farmers.

Educational Disruptions

Extreme heat impacts education by forcing schools to extend vacations or close altogether. In several countries, school closures due to heatwaves have affected thousands of students, disrupting their education and overall development.

Record-Breaking Temperatures

Numerous records were broken in April 2024, with Myanmar, Laos, and Vietnam experiencing their hottest April days ever, and the Philippines recording its hottest night at 29.8 degrees Celsius (85.6 degrees Fahrenheit). India saw temperatures soar to 46 degrees Celsius (115 degrees Fahrenheit). April 2024 was the hottest April globally and marked the eleventh consecutive month of record-breaking temperatures.

Economic Implications

The economic impacts of heatwaves are profound. They affect personal health, reduce productivity, and strain public and private resources. A heat plans expert at the  think tank Sustainable Futures Collaborative, emphasized the urgent need for increased awareness, investment, and research to mitigate the effects of extreme heat. He highlighted that heat is now among the foremost risks to personal health and economic development worldwide.

Vulnerable populations

The evidence is clear: heatwaves are becoming more frequent and severe due to climate change, causing significant harm to health, agriculture, education, and the economy. Immediate and sustained action is necessary to mitigate these impacts and protect vulnerable populations. Investment in heat risk awareness, public and private infrastructure to cope with increasing temperatures, and ongoing research are crucial steps toward a more resilient future.

M Moiz
M Moiz
M Moiz, is Research Student at Islamabad research Institute and work with THE THINK TANK JOURNAL

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