Caption: Extreme heat in India affects people's livelihoods when crops die due to drought. Photo: Sam Greenhalgh. Source: Flickr.

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The heat wave in India and Pakistan reflects the extreme weather of the future

India and Pakistan have experienced extreme heat unusually early in the year. The heat affects 1,5 billion people in the countries - and fPeople are expected to be affected in the future if climate change is not slowed down globally and regionally, researchers say.

Summer came early to India and Pakistan this year. Already in April it was measured over 40 degrees in New Delhi and up to 50 degrees in Sindh province i Pakistan. Both countries have previously been hit by extreme heat waves, which usually begin in May, but achieving new record temperatures for both countries as early as April is unusual. That the heat waves will come earlier this year is a sign of climate change and they will only become more common and more extreme over the years.

The heat affects development in several ways

The extreme heat has affected both the people of India and Pakistan. Countries are experiencing prolonged power outages, schools have closed for the summer and crops have been lost as a result of the drought, which means that many farmers in the countries are losing their income and even their food. But the biggest risk is for those who cultivate the land.

- People who work outdoors - farmers, construction workers and those who work with the body - suffer the most. They have no chance to cool down and stay in the shade, says Chandni Singh at the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

In India, power outages have also largely affected industry. The majority of the electricity comes from coal and the country has now started using passenger trains to increase the transport of coal. Burning coal is India's only way to start the electricity at the moment which drives fans and air conditioning for the residents, but burning coal further affects the climate and leads to more heat. India must therefore find renewable resources to slow down the heat waves of the future, says Ulrika Kelkar, economist and climate change expert.

A long-term vision of climate change is needed

Climate scientist agrees that South Asia will continue to experience longer and more extreme heat waves in the future. It is mainly the global climate changes that are the basis for the extreme heat that was achieved recently, but the increased transport and deforestation in the countries will also affect the climate.

Those who will be hardest hit by the heated future are the poor. People in India and Pakistan will experience increased illness and higher hospital bills due to the heat. Children will also be affected as the heat affects the possibility of education.

- Many children in rural areas go to schools that are sheds without real roofs, it is unbearable in such a heat, says Roxy Koll, climate researcher at the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology.

The Government of India has been working since 2015 to deal with heat waves, but more action is needed for the future. A long-term vision is to change labor laws for those who work outdoors and build "green", ie sustainable, cities.

Sherry Rheman, Pakistan's climate minister, has spoken out about the heat waves. She hopes that the extreme heat in India and Pakistan can be a wake-up call for the international arena.

- Climate and weather events like this are here to stay and will only increase in scale and intensity if global leaders do not start acting, says Rheman.   

 

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