What’s the news?
- The World Bank report titled ‘Climate Investment Opportunities in India’s Cooling Sector’ warned that Severe heat waves, responsible for thousands of deaths across India over the last few decades, are increasing with alarming frequency and soon the country could become one of the first places in the world to experience heat waves that break the human survivability limit.
- The report will be released during the two-day “India Climate and Development Partners’ Meet” being organized by the World Bank in partnership with the Kerala government.
Key highlights of the report
- Environmental Impact
- In April 2022, India was plunged into the grip of a punishing early spring heat wave that brought the country to a standstill, with temperatures in the capital, New Delhi, topping 46 degrees Celsius (114 degrees Fahrenheit). The month of March, which witnessed extraordinary spikes in temperatures, was the hottest ever recorded.
- In August 2021, the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned that the Indian subcontinent would suffer more frequent and intense heat waves over the coming decade.
- The G20 Climate Risk Atlas also warned in 2021 that heat waves across India were likely to last 25 times longer by 2036-65 if carbon emissions remain high.
- The report shows that the recent heat wave supports what many climate scientists have long cautioned about with reference to rising temperatures across South Asia.
- Eg: India showed the largest heat exposure impacts on heavy labor among South Asian countries, with more than 101 billion hours lost a year.
- Economic Impact
- The report warned that rising heat across India can jeopardize economic productivity.” Eg: Up to 75% of India’s workforce, or 380 million people, depend on heat-exposed labor, at times working in potentially life-threatening temperatures.
- By 2030, India may account for 34 million of the projected 80 million global job losses from heat stress associated productivity decline.
- An Analysis by global management consulting firm, McKinsey & Company shows that lost labor from rising heat and humidity could put up to 4.5% of India’s GDP –approximately USD 150-250 billion – at risk by the end of this decade.
- The report says that India’s long-term food security and public health security will depend on a reliable cold chain network and a single temperature lapse in the journey can break the cold chain, spoiling fresh produce and weakening the potency of vaccines.
- Eg: With only 4% of fresh produce in India covered by cold chain facilities, annual estimated food losses total to USD 13 billion.
- The report also noted that the third largest producer of pharmaceuticals in the world, pre-COVID-19, India lost approximately 20% of temperature-sensitive medical products and 25% of vaccines due to broken cold chains, leading to losses of USD 313 million a year.
- Social Impact
- As temperatures rise across India, so will the demand for cooling. However, in a country where two-thirds of the population live on less than USD 2 a day, and where the average cost of an air-conditioning unit can vary between USD 260 and USD 500, air-cooling systems are a luxury available only to a few.
- Eg: According to an analysis presented in the India Cooling Action Plan (ICAP), only 8% of Indian households own air-conditioning units.
- The report warned that many poor and marginalized communities across India are more vulnerable to extreme heat, living in inadequately ventilated, hot and crowded homes without proper access to cooling.
What is a Heat wave?
- A Heat Wave is a period of abnormally high temperatures, more than the normal maximum temperature that occurs during the summer season in the North-Western parts of India.
- Heat Waves typically occur between March and June, and in some rare cases even extend till July.
- The extreme temperatures and resultant atmospheric conditions adversely affect people living in these regions as they cause physiological stress, sometimes resulting in death.
Criteria for declaring Heat waves
- Heat waves need not be considered till the maximum temperature of a station reaches at least 40°C for Plains and at least 30°C for Hilly regions.
- Based on Departure from Normal
- Heat Wave: Departure from normal is 4.5°C to 6.4°C
- Severe Heat Wave: Departure from normal is >6.4°C
- Based on Actual Maximum Temperature
- Heat Wave: When actual maximum temperature ≥ 45°C
- Severe Heat Wave: When actual maximum temperature ≥47°C
Which states are highly prone to Heat waves in India?
- Heat wave generally occurs over plains of northwest India, Central, East & north Peninsular India
- It covers Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat, parts of Maharashtra & Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. Sometimes it occurs over Tamil Nadu & Kerala also.