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Issue 33 Print 72dpi

Climate Change Threatens Millions In Asia

A new study has found that the gradual rise of temperatures, due to climate change, on our planet could make South Asia uninhabitable in the next 100 years.

Published by Science Advances, the study claims that climate change could make Pakistan, Nepal, India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka — home to 1.5 billion people — impossible to live in by the year 2100.

This is because temperatures and humidity in that region could surpass levels at which humans can survive, thanks to climate change.

Abbreviated to TW, there is a measure of a combination of temperature and humidity called wet-bulb temperature. In 2010, the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published a study claiming that the highest wet-bulb temperature a human can withstand is 35°C (95°F).

Wet-bulb temperature is the lowest temperature which may be achieved by evaporative cooling of a water-wetted surface. In terms of human survival, the wet-bulb temperature affects whether or not we can expel heat from our bodies, which we need to do to stay alive in hot conditions.

A wet-bulb temperature of 35°C is the upper limit at which this is possible — any hotter and our bodies cannot cool themselves, they can instead only take in heat from their surroundings.

The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reads: “Human exposure to TW of around 35 degrees C for even a few hours will result in death even for the fittest of humans under shaded, well-ventilated conditions”.

It is this wet-bulb temperature which is feared South Asia could surpass by the year 2100, which would make the affected region entirely uninhabitable.

In 2015, there was an extreme heatwave in Iran and parts of the Persian/Arabian Gulf. During this heatwave the 35 degree limit was almost reached and, when it reached India and Pakistan, 3,500 people died.

Climate change is often overlooked as some kind of empty threat, but it is important that we pay heed to its potential consequences, because they could arrive sooner rather than later.

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