Bangladesh population

India is home to half of the world’s population vulnerable to deadly heat, new study finds

17 of the 50 cities most affected by heat stress are in India. | Photo credit: iStock images


  • Researchers have found that more than half of the people on Earth facing life-threatening heat stress from climate change live in India.
  • City dwellers in the world’s second most populous country have been the hardest hit by global warming over the past three decades.
  • India has 17 of the 50 cities most affected by heat stress. New Delhi came in second, right next to Bangladesh‘s capital Dhaka at the top of the list.

Even though the weather settles into a comfortable fashion, the memories of the scorching summer have not really left us. Abnormally hot and cold weather has become our daily reality now. This year alone, tens of millions of people sizzled under heat waves across northern India.
Not just tens of millions, but more than half of the world’s population who are vulnerable to deadly heat live in India, according to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Disturbing data from the study “Exposure of the world’s urban population to extreme heat” indicates that, while urban dwellers in India, the second most populous country in the world, have been hit the hardest by global warming over the past three decades, the risks to their health are about to increase. In fact, of the 50 cities most affected by heat stress in the world, 17 are in India. The horrors do not end there. In the list of cities most affected by heat stress, New Delhi came in second, just behind Bangladesh’s capital, Dhaka, which tops the list.

Researchers based in the United States conducted a statistical analysis of 13,115 cities around the world, using the “wet bulb index”, a measure that takes into account temperature, humidity, speed of the earth. wind and radiant heat. When that measurement exceeds 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit), the International Organization for Standardization says workers face heat-related illnesses that can be fatal. The researchers specify in their article that worldwide, urban exposure to extreme heat increased by nearly 200% between 1983 and 2016, affecting 1.7 billion people.

“Our analysis calls into question the future sustainability and equity of populations living in and moving to many of the world’s urban centers,” the authors wrote. “Climate change is increasing the frequency, duration and intensity of extreme heat across the world.”

This is not the first study of its kind, although it certainly adds to the alarm quotient. “Exposure to extreme heat in urban areas is much more prevalent – and increasing in many more areas – than we previously realized,” said Kelly Caylor, study co-author, director of the University of California at Santa Barbara’s Earth Research. Institute. “Almost one in five people on Earth has experienced an increase in their exposure to urban heat over the past 30 years.”

In a study published by the journal The Lancet Planetary Health in July 2021, another group of researchers concluded that nearly 740,000 additional deaths in India each year could be attributed to unusually hot and cold temperatures linked to climate change.

Each of these studies hit us with a jolt. However, the relevant question are we ready to do something about it? Whether it’s small lifestyle changes or asking leaders for changes at the political level, people in a democracy have more agency than they realize. If there has ever been a time to use this agency for the good of the planet and protect the planet for generations to come, it is NOW.

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