Scorching heatwave extends over the region . . .
After an unusually hot March, a brutal heatwave is lingering over South Asia. It has pushed temperature above 50 degrees Celsius in parts of the region, broken temperature records in India and Pakistan in April, and killed hundreds of people. While extreme heat is more common in May and June, this year’s heat has been unprecedented as the region witnessed scorching temperatures in March and April. The current heatwave is also more widespread than is usual for South Asia, covering most of Pakistan and India instead of impacting a few anticipated pockets.
Harsh consequences . . .
The current heatwave is putting more than one billion people in South Asia at risk of heat-related illness. In response to the unbearably hot temperatures, many schools have cancelled or postponed classes, and work hours in some industries, such as construction and manufacturing, have been restructured and shortened. Farmers, particularly in India and Pakistan, have reported significant challenges with their harvests, with a decline in production by as much as 50 per cent for essential crops like lentils and wheat. The production decline comes as India was hoping to boost wheat exports to help make up for a shortfall in global grain supplies due to the war in Ukraine.
The importance of the energy transition . . .
Despite only a fraction of South Asians having access to air conditioning or electric fans, extreme temperatures have pushed the demand for electricity to a record high. The heightened demand is leading to increased fossil fuel consumption as most of the electricity in the region comes from coal and oil, which in turn contribute to rising temperatures through pollution. The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that India will be seriously affected if greenhouse gas emissions are not cut. It described India as potentially the most “economically harmed” country due to the increasing occurrence of extreme weather events. The current heatwave is another reminder of how crucial it is for the world and the region to successfully transition to renewable energy sources.