A new study predicts there’ll be more than 1 million deaths a year from extreme heat in India by the next century if greenhouse gas emissions continue at their current level.
Research by the Climate Impact Lab with the University of Chicago’s Tata Centre for Development projects India’s average annual temperature will rise 4 degrees by 2100.
When broken down by location, 16 of India’s 36 states and union territories will become hotter than Punjab, which is currently the hottest state, with an average annual summer temperature around 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 degrees Celsius).
As temperatures rise, the number of extremely hot days is expected to rise, as well.
The state of Odisha will see the highest increase, with an average of 48.05 hot days by 2100 compared with 1.62 in 2010. Delhi is projected to experience 22 times as many days with extreme heat, and Haryana is estimated to see 20 times as many days.
The study estimates the combination of hotter summers and more high-heat days will contribute to more than 1.5 million deaths each year by 2100.
The projected death rate is as high as the current death rate from all infectious diseases in India today.
Six states—Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra—are expected to contribute to more than half of the excess death rate from rising temperatures.
“Having already seen 2,500 deaths due to a heat wave in 2015, the future is projected to be even more worrying if India—and the world—does not change course to mitigate the harmful effects of climate change,” said Amir Jina of the Climate Impact Lab.
If the world commits to the Paris Agreement and regularly updates its commitments, the study estimates India’s excess death rate from high heat will drop more than 80%.
The study comes as India’s energy use is expected to more than double by 2040, with fossil fuels serving as the main source.
The country’s 5% increase in coal demand last year contributed to a nearly equal percentage in its carbon emissions. India is currently the world’s third-largest carbon emitter (Climatewire, Aug. 14).
Michael Greenstone, faculty director at the Tata Centre and a co-founder of the Climate Impact Lab, said the continued reliance on fossil fuels will harm India in the years to come.
The need to balance cheap and reliable energy sources while managing climate risks, he said, is “perhaps the defining challenge of our generation.”
Reprinted from Climatewire with permission from E&E News. E&E provides daily coverage of essential energy and environmental news atwww.eenews.net.