Heat Waves In India Show Growing Costs Of Climate Change

A recent study maps rising temperatures in India and predicts that heat- related deaths will only increase in the future. The recent study highlights the latest issues caused by climate change. The need for effective global climate action is great. But with the U.S. announcing its withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, it will be more difficult to thwart the effects of climate change.

India is now two and a half times more likely to experience a deadly heat wave than it was 50 years ago. The study shows that India’s average temperature has risen 0.5 degrees from 1960 to 2009. With this rise in temperature, the probability of heat-related mortalities has also risen dramatically. Since 2013,  India has experienced an increasing amount of heat waves, and a decreasing number of colder periods. As a result, 2016 was the warmest year on record and hundreds of people died due to the heat wave. The Ministry of Earth Sciences in India shows that at least 4620 people have died in the last four years due to the heat waves.

These results are especially worrying since all it took to produce them was a 0.5 degree rise in temperatures. When considering the 2 degrees centigrade limit agreed upon in the Paris agreement, it seems climate change may be more devastating than predicted.

Climatologist Omid Mazdiyasni told Al Jazeera that, “We knew there was going to be an impact, but we didn’t expect it to be this big.” He went on to warn that, “It’s getting hotter, and of course more heat waves are going to kill more people.” In a country such as India, with a fast-rising population and a large amount of people in poverty or low income, greater heat waves could be disastrous. Especially since 25% of the population do not have access to electricity. Much of India relies on agriculture for their livelihoods, and climate change puts them at an enormous risk.

Trump’s recent announcement to withdraw from the Paris agreement is most certainly a step in the wrong direction. While the initial agreement itself is non-binding and self-regulating, many hoped that through the amendment processes, it would surmount to an effective treaty. Climate Interactive calculates that by 2025, the U.S. will emit 6.7 gigatons of CO2 per year instead of the 5.3 gigatons of CO2 per year it would have emitted if it had stayed in the agreement. That would raise global emissions by 3%.

Despite other major polluters such as the EU and China publicly announcing their commitment to Paris in the wake of the Trump’s decision, the lack of U.S. support is damaging on many levels. For one, it was meant to be a large contributor to the multilateral fund which would help developing countries reduce emissions. Additionally, it does not send a positive message to the world of a greener future, when the supposed leader of the free world pulls out of the largest global effort to reduce climate change.