June 6, 2023

Southeast Asia is at Risk of the Region’s Month-Long Heat Waves

Climate warming is bringing summer weather to South Asia earlier than usual. Some areas have seen temperatures rise over the freezing point at 120 degrees Fahrenheit.

Current heat waves are extreme, with India experiencing its warmest two months this year. At least 25 individuals have died due to heatstroke, and schools have been forced to close early.

Mariam Zachariah, a water and climate researcher at Imperial College London, tells the Guardian that the heat that rocked India earlier this month would have occurred only once every 50 years before human activity caused global temperatures to rise. As a result, “such high temperatures can be expected around once every four years.”

There is a little reprieve for many in the region. Most South Asians have no access to AC, with just 7% of Indian families having the technology in 2019. As a result, the Indian states of Rajasthan, Gujarat, and Andhra Pradesh are imposing power cuts on enterprises to reduce energy use. With coal, India’s primary energy source, running low due to the heat, the country faces an imminent energy catastrophe.

Human health can no longer withstand such extended exposure to dangerously high temperatures. An economist and climate change specialist from the World Resources Institute in Bengaluru, India, tells NPR that “at some point [it becomes] practically difficult for the human body’s organs to work correctly” when it’s hot and humid. Many people in India still labor in uncooled industries and fields because their bodies cannot regulate their temperature.

Additionally, this season has seen a shortage of rainfall, putting a strain on water supplies in many areas. Furthermore, the dry weather is expected to last until the summer monsoon rains. There is a good chance that this year’s crop in India will be disappointing because of the high heat, which will hurt local farmers and the economy as a whole.

Muslim inhabitants in the region were unable to fast throughout April because of the oppressive heat. By telling its citizens not to leave their homes afternoon, the state of Bihar in India caused significant harm to local businesses. “People have been confined to their homes during daylight hours. Rameshwar Paswan, a rickshaw driver, told ABC News that he and his fellow workers are fighting to make ends meet.

A climate expert at the University of California, Irvine, tells Tech Review that this severe weather is “part of a bigger climate-change signal.” Extreme heat events like these will become increasingly common when global temperatures rise slightly.