Temperature rise of 2 degrees Celsius impacts billions – The Core IAS

Temperature rise of 2 degrees Celsius impacts billions

Context:

  • Under current climate change policies, billions will face life-threatening heat. But a global network of heat officers is tackling the problem in their own cities.
  • About 2 billion people will live in hazardous heat conditions by the end of the century if climate policies continue on their current trajectory, according to new research published in the Nature Sustainability journal. That represents 23% of the projected global population.
  • If the climate warms more drastically — a potential scenario under current policies — about 3.3 billion people could face extreme temperatures by the end of the century.
  • Around 60 million people are already exposed to dangerous heat levels, characterized by an average temperature of 29 degrees Celsius (84.2 degrees Fahrenheit) or higher.

How do hot temperatures harm human health?

  • Extreme heat can result in a range of illnesses and death, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). These include heatstroke and hyperthermia. Temperature extremes also worsen chronic conditions and have indirect effects on disease transmission, air quality and critical infrastructure.
  • The elderly, infants and children, pregnant women, outdoor and manual workers, athletes and the poor are particularly vulnerable to higher temperatures.
  • Limiting warming to the lower Paris accord target of 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels would still expose 400 million people to dangerous heat levels by the end of the century, the study found.
  • People living in India, Sudan and Niger will all be heavily affected by even 1.5 degrees warming, but 2.7 degrees will have enormous effects on countries like the Philippines, Pakistan and Nigeria.

Calculating the human cost of climate change

  • Researchers said their study breaks the trend of modeling climate impacts in economic rather than human terms.
  • It invariably distorts value away from human lives and towards centers of wealth. Places more value on a life in New York State than in Bangladesh.
  • Most other models also prioritize current populations over future ones, with inequality in global warming being “both globally distributed, but also intergenerational.
  • It fundamentally values my life more than my children’s lives and certainly more than my grandchildren’s lives.
  • Looking at individual country impacts on dangerous heat levels, researchers found that current emissions from 1.2 average US citizens condemn a future human to live in extreme heat. Despite having disproportionate emissions, the US population faces a much lower threat from dangerous temperatures.

How can people be protected from extreme heat?

  • Previous studies have shown cities are particularly vulnerable to such dangerous temperature rises, due to the “heat island effect.” Buildings, roads and infrastructure absorb and radiate the sun’s heat more than natural environments like forests and water bodies, raising urban temperatures by as much 15 degrees Celsius in some cases, compared to rural areas.
  • Cities around the world are introducing the new role of chief heat officer to deal with inevitable temperature increases. Example: Santiago, the capital of Chile
  • Many cities in the world face extreme heat, but the solutions and the way you approach it are very local. Still they all broadly follow a three pronged strategy — preparedness, awareness and adaptation.
  • Preparedness can include categorizing heat waves in the same way as other natural disasters, or setting up an alert threshold to trigger a certain city response. Raising awareness of the dangers of heat are an integral part of the role.
  • The third prong is adapting the city to the new reality of high temperatures, largely by creating more green spaces in the city.
  • Santiago has just launched an urban reforestation project to plant 30,000 trees across the city and develop strategies that treat the trees as part of the urban infrastructure. The whole idea is to try to plant the shade that we’re going to have in the next 20 or 30 years.

Source: Indian Express