Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

Explained Climate: Heatwaves and Climate Change


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Climate Change; Heat Waves;

Mains level: Impacts of Climate change;

Why in the News? 

According to the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD), heatwave conditions are affecting either the smaller regions or the larger geographical areas in India at every 26 days of the month.

What are the Heat Waves?

  • The “World Meteorological Organization” defines a heat wave as five or more consecutive days during which the daily maximum temperature exceeds the average maximum temperature by five degrees Celsius.
  • If the maximum temperature of any place continues to be more than 45 Degree Celsius consecutively for two days, it is called a heat wave condition.

Heatwaves in India:       

  • Regional Observations: A place with a normal temperature of 40°C in summer is not experiencing a heatwave at 42-43°C, but another location with a normal temperature of 27-28°C is in a heatwave at 35°C.
    • Heatwaves are common in northern, central, and eastern India during summer. Heatwaves are becoming more frequent, intense, and prolonged due to climate change.
    • In February 2023 (winter month for India), several regions experienced heatwaves with maximum temperatures 5 to 11 degrees higher than normal. (with a mean temperature 1.36°C higher than normal)
  • Predictions and Records: The outlook for heatwaves this year is grim, with predictions of prolonged heatwaves lasting 10 to 20 days in some areas, compared to the usual 4 to 8 days.
    • In April 2023, Odisha experienced an 18-day heatwave, the second-longest in the state’s history.
    • Gangetic West Bengal recorded the highest number of heatwave days in any month over the last 15 years. Eastern India recorded its warmest April ever.
  • Upcoming Heatwave: The India Meteorological Department (IMD) forecasted a fresh spell of heatwaves starting over northwest India.

Impact of Heatwaves:

  • Impact on Resource Availability:
    • Water Resources: It exacerbates water scarcity by drying up of water bodies, reducing water availability for agriculture and domestic use, and increasing competition for resources. This can lead to conflicts over water, affect irrigation practices, and impact water-dependent industries.
    • Energy Resources: It increases electricity demand for cooling purposes, leading to strain on power grids and potential blackouts. This can disrupt economic activities, affect productivity, and impact vulnerable populations.
  • Impact on Health:
    • Prolonged exposure to heat can lead to Dehydration and Cardiovascular and Respiratory diseases.
    • Rapid rises in heat gain can compromise the body’s ability to regulate temperature and can result in a cascade of illnesses, including heat cramps, heat exhaustion, heatstroke, and hyperthermia.
    • Health Ministry reported 264 heat-related deaths in the first six months of 2023. NCRB reported 730 heat-related deaths in the same year.

However, data collected and maintained by IMD and NDMA (National Disaster Management Authority) showed a sharp decline in heat-related deaths ever since state governments and district administrations began implementing heat action plans.

Mitigation of Heatwaves:

  • Need to establish an Early Warning System: The Inter-Agency Coordination needs to alert residents on predicted high and extreme temperatures. Who will do what, when, and how is made clear to individuals and units of key departments, especially for health.
  • Increase Public Awareness and Community Outreach: Disseminating public awareness messages on how to protect against the extreme heat – wave through social media and advertisements. Additionally, the government needs to aware the general public through Television programs the Do’s and Dont’s for heat-related illnesses.

Conclusion: Need to improve collaboration with Non-governmental organizations and Civil society organizations to improve public spaces wherever necessary, improve water delivery systems in public areas, and other innovative measures to tackle heatwave conditions.

Mains PYQ: 

Q ‘Climate change’ is a global problem. How India will be affected by climate change? How Himalayan and coastal states of India will be affected by climate change? (UPSC IAS/2017)

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