Over the past few months, South Asians have been battling with an extreme heat wave. People suffering from heat strokes are brought into hospitals on a daily basis. Bodies brought in are already dead due to the dehydration and hunger. The death toll has been increasing drastically, so much that the graveyards in some cities are full.
What makes this heat wave any different from many others throughout the years? Besides the average temperatures raising by 5%, the heat index is higher than the actual temperature as air pressure is low and humidity levels are very high. The low pressure has also cut off the sea breeze, thus making the heat unbearably high. Scientists believe the same climate change that has accelerated extreme weather events such as floods, droughts, and wildfires is also the main cause behind heat waves.
One of the main countries hit the hardest by this heat wave is Pakistan. Last month the start of Ramadan, the holy month of fasting for Muslims in which people forgo eating or drinking from sunrise to sunset, makes this heat wave even more deadly for Pakistanis. During June alone, more than 65,000 suffered from heat strokes and out of those 1,300 died in Karachi due to the heat. The extreme heat coupled with fasting is the main reason behind all the deaths. The number of bodies is increasing day by day to a point where the morgues are full— forcing workers to stack the bodies over each other on the floor.
Although this might seem like a “hot summer”, it might become the norm for millions around the globe. This is climate change and it will only continue to get worse year after year. In fact, research shows over the past 10 years winter was reduced from 115 days to 80 and summer was extended from 150 days to 180in South Asia. Unfortunately most of the victims are people under the poverty line, as well as children. As pope stated in his recent encyclical the “worst impacts [of climate change] will probably be felt by developing countries. Many of the poor live in areas particularly affected by phenomena related to warming.”
The action taken toward this problem is not enough to solve it. In countries such as India and Pakistan, which are overpopulated and have high poverty levels, the government tends to shift priorities away from climate issues. What nations need to realize is that climate change affects all aspects of the economy, welfare of citizens, and overall health for humans and the environment. Climate change must be addressed before disasters impact millions around the world.
Niusha Bastani, Intern