A year ago, extreme heat waves in India killed dozens of people, slashed crop yields by as much as one-third in some areas, and set a landfill ablaze in Delhi, casting toxic smoke over the surrounding neighborhoods. Temperatures soared 15 degrees Fahrenheit above normal, hitting 115 degrees in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh and sparking more than 300 wildfires across the country. Even as power plants burned more coal to provide the power needed to keep people cool, the country experienced a nationwide electricity shortage.
Such scenes will become the norm as extreme heat, driven by climate change, kills crops, starts fires, and endangers people’s health across the globe. New research suggests India is especially at risk — and the government may be underestimating the threat.
There are roughly 1.4 billion people in India, and last year extreme heat left 90 percent of the country vulnerable to public health risks like heatstroke, food shortages, and even death, according to a study Cambridge researchers published last week. Soaring temperatures also could slow ... Read more