Everywhere, there's more evidence that the world is in climatic
meltdown. On Monday this week, the eminent author (and part-time Goa
resident) Amitav Ghosh tweeted an alarming video file of a flaming
palm, writing, "I am told it is so hot in Kuwait that trees are
spontaneously combusting." Just last month, that desert country
registered the "hottest temperature ever recorded on earth", an
astonishing 54 degrees Celsius. Neighbouring Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq
and Syria also recorded highest-ever temperatures recently. It's
becoming painfully apparent the entire Middle East is inexorably
turning too hot for comfortable existence. The first cradle of human
civilization could eventually become an abandoned moonscape.

At the same time, Europe is suffering a calamitous summer, with
temperatures holding above 40C across the continent. This devilish
heatwave, inevitably called 'Lucifer', has already killed several
people. In Serbia, train tracks became so warped from the baking sun,
that service was halted. Runaway wildfires are raging in Bosnia,
Macedonia and Croatia simultaneously, following another deadly set of
blazes which killed dozens in Portugal. Romania's capital city of
Bucharest has alerted all citizens to stay indoors during afternoon
hours, while at least half of Spain remains on identical emergency
alert. Another sign of disruption: Italy's grape harvest for
wine-making started a full month earlier than anyone can remember
happening in the past.

Of course, there's no need to look far away for evidence of global
warming and catastrophic climate change. This monsoon season, everyone
can tell Goa has experienced more sunny days than cloudy, and received
just barely two-thirds its normal share of rain. Just across the
border, Karnataka staggers through the worst drought in five decades,
caused by its fourth consecutive failed monsoon. Chief minister
Siddaramaiah has declared a water emergency in 160 of 176 talukas.
Over Goa's other border, chief minister Devendra Fadnavis recently
promised, "In two years we can make Maharashtra drought free." But by
his own government accounts, nearly 30,000 villages are officially
registered as drought-afflicted.

Fadnavis's Maharashtra tallied an astonishing 852 farmer suicides in
just the first four months of this year, adding to an utterly tragic
national epidemic that is directly linked to global warming caused by
climate change. A few days ago, scientist Tamma Carleton (of the
University of California) released an eye-opening study associating
rising temperatures with nearly 60,000 farmer suicides in India. She
found an increase of even just one degree resulted in 67 additional
people killing themselves, while timely rainfall immediately
corresponded to drops in the death rate. Carleton writes, "This effect
occurs only during India's agricultural growing season, when heat also
lowers crop yields. I find no evidence that acclimatization, rising
incomes, or other unobserved drivers of adaptation are occurring."

The enormous scale of looming disaster is underlined by another
important international study published a few days ago by the journal
'Science Advances'. Drs Eun-Soon Im (Hong Kong University), Jeremy S
Pal (Loyola Marymount University) and Elfatih Eltahir (Massachusetts
Institute of Technology) warn "the most intense hazard from extreme
future heatwaves is concentrated around densely populated agricultural
regions of the Ganges and Indus river basins. Climate change, without
mitigation, presents a serious and unique risk in South Asia, a region
inhabited by about one-fifth of the global human population, due to an
unprecedented combination of severe natural hazard and acute

This stunning, highly depressing analysis is predicated on 'wet bulb
temperature' (WBT), which factors in the cooling effects of humidity.
Once WBT crosses 35 degrees, humans get no relief by sweating, and
even perfectly fit people sitting in the shade will die after a few
hours of exposure. According to the 'Science Advances' study, if
current patterns of unchecked carbon emissions hold, that disastrous
scenario is sure to unfold in India in this coming century, exposing a
minimum of 4% of the national population to "unsurvivable six-hour
heatwaves of 35C WBT". Major cities like Lucknow and Patna are likely
to be wiped out, and tens of millions will die. It will be the end of
India as we know it.

There is a tiny glimmer of hope, however. The authors caution that 35C
WBT "killer heatwaves" need not occur if the nations of the world
manage to reduce carbon emissions in line with their own global Paris
climate change agreements. Here, it is to China and India's immense
credit that each is almost guaranteed to meet its assigned goals,
thanks to hugely impressive realignment to green technologies. Eltahir
of MIT points out that the highly dangerous (but not quite fatal) 31C
WBT level would recur regularly for around 500 million Indians if
climate change continues unabated, but only for fraction of that
number if the Paris targets are achieved. He said, "The problem is
very alarming, but the intensity of the heatwaves can be reduced
considerably if global society takes action."

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