This Article is From Jun 16, 2022

Deadly Heatwaves Here To Stay? - 'Hot Mic' With Nidhi Razdan

Hot Mic with Nidhi Razdan: If you live in north India, you know we've all been suffering from a terrible heatwave. The national capital alone has seen 6 heatwave spells this summer, the deadliest being in mid-May when the maximum temp soared to 49C

Hi, This is Hot Mic and I'm Nidhi Razdan.

If you live in North India, you know, we've all been suffering from a terrible heatwave. The national capital, Delhi alone has seen six heatwave spells this summer, the deadliest being in mid-May when the maximum temperatures soared to 49 degrees Celsius at some places. March, in fact, was the hottest in India since records began to be kept 122 years ago. March was also extremely dry, with 71% less rain than normal over India.

The Center for Science and Environment, a think tank, says that early heatwaves this year have affected around 15 states, including Himachal Pradesh, which is usually known for its pleasant temperatures. Scientists say the heatwave scorching India, Pakistan and the general region this year has been made 30 times more likely by the climate change crisis.

Extreme temperatures and low rainfall since mid-March have caused widespread suffering, including deaths, crop losses, forest fires and cuts to power and water supplies. Right now, the global average temperature has risen 1.2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. If it rises to two degrees Celsius, heat waves as intense as the current one, would be expected as often as every five years in India.

In the UK, the Met Office says that warm spells have more than doubled in length in the past 50 years. In the Southern Hemisphere, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay and Brazil all saw historic heatwaves in January this year. Many areas reporting their hottest day on record. In the same month, Onslow in Western Australia hit 50.7 degrees Celsius, the joint highest temperature ever reliably recorded in the Southern Hemisphere.

Last year, North America was hit by long heatwaves. Lytton in western Canada recorded 49.6 degrees Celsius. This heatwave has a huge impact on our everyday lives. The early onset of the heatwave and poor rains have hit, for example, India's wheat production and a subsequent government ban on wheat exports pushed global prices up by 6%, adding to global food concerns.

Studies have also shown that devastating floods in South Africa and Europe, heatwaves in North America and storms in the southeast of Africa were all supercharged by global warming. The deadly heatwaves have also caused massive power blackouts around the world. In the United States, for example, six Texas power plants failed earlier this year, just as the summer heat began to arrive, offering a preview of what's to come.

At least a dozen US states, including California, are at the risk of huge blackouts this summer. Power supplies will also be tight in China and Japan. South Africa is poised for a record year of power cuts and Europe, too, is in a precarious position. If Moscow cuts off natural gas to the region, that could trigger rolling outages in some countries. So what will these long power blackouts mean for people?

It increases the likelihood of illness and death from unrelenting temperatures, prolonged outages also mean that tens of thousands may lose access to clean water and if blackouts persist and businesses shut down, that, of course, brings in a huge economic shock as well.

A story done by Bloomberg points out that long power outages in India can shave off $100 billion of the GDP, if they are more widespread and last through the year. When power plants in Texas failed, wholesale power prices in Houston briefly jumped above $5,000 a megawatt-hour price cap, surging 22 times higher than the average cost of on-peak power that had been secured for the day.

The world is already grappling with the fallout of two years of the pandemic, a global disruption in supply chains, Russia's invasion of Ukraine - that's put a stress on food and fuel prices - and now you have the problem of extreme weather. Climate change means that the extreme heatwaves of today will become more common, continuing to put pressure on all of us and on electricity supplies.