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South India Expects Early and Intense Heatwaves Due to Climate Change

A Health Ministry statement in the Lok Sabha attributed the highest number of heat related deaths to Kerala (120).

The combined impact of global warming and ongoing El Nino conditions in the equatorial Pacific Ocean has started showing heightened temperatures across many regions of the northern hemisphere, including south India. This could lead to an early and intense heatwave in these regions. November turned out the warmest Indian temperatures on record, 99% chances of 2024 ending as even warmer 26% of the country of India is under constant drought conditions!

Central and Western India experience more frequent and severe droughts primarily due to lower and more erratic rainfall patterns compared to other parts of the country. Conditions of drought are brought on by a lack of precipitation, high rates of evaporation, and a lack of surface and groundwater. South India consists of the five southern Indian states of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu, as well as the union territories of Puducherry, and Lakshadweep. Some of the main crops cultivated in South India include paddy, sorghum, pearl millet, pulses, sugarcane, cotton, chili, and ragi. Areca palm , coffee, tea, vanilla, rubber, pepper, tapioca, and cardamom are cultivated on the hills, while coconuts grow in abundance along the coastal areas.

Scientists have long warned that human-induced climate change will bring about the kind of devastating heatwaves and impacts we are witnessing in South Asia. Extreme heat has major repercussions for the agricultural sector. Climate related heat stress will increase drought and exacerbate water scarcity for irrigation. The term "agrarian distress" gained prominence in India in the 1990s when a wave of farmer suicides occurred in the country.In the 2020–2021 Indian farmers' protest, the issue of agrarian distress gained renewed attention due to the protests by farmers in India against agricultural bills that they claimed would hurt their livelihoods.[5][6][7] The protests highlighted the long-standing issues faced by farmers in India, such as low income, lack of market access, and dependence on middlemen.

Regarding expected heatwaves in the Summer months of 2024 IMD Director General Mrutyunjay Mohapatra said India is likely to see above-normal maximum temperatures in most parts of the country during the “Hot Weather Season 2024” between March and May 2024. Extreme heat is pushing India to the brink of ‘survivability.’ India's temperatures topped 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) last June – closing schools, damaging crops and putting pressure on energy supplies – the heat was making elderly people and children sick too.

By 2050, India will be among the first places where temperatures will cross survivability limits, according to climate experts. And within that time frame, the demand for air conditioners (AC) in the country is also expected to rise ten-fold, outpacing all other appliances, according to a recent report by the International Energy Agency (IEA).Vast swathes of India’s population remain reliant on AC for their physical and mental wellbeing. And the country’s more tropical southern regions remain hot year-round.

Electricity consumption in India from cooling – which includes AC and refrigerators – increased 21% between 2019 and 2022, according to the IEA. By 2050, India’s total electricity demand from residential air conditioners will exceed total electricity consumption in all of Africa today, it added But this demand is also exacerbating the global climate crisis. Like refrigerators, many air conditioners today use a class of coolants called hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs, which are harmful greenhouse gases. And even more problematically, air conditioners tend to use large amounts of electricity, generated by the burning of fossil fuels. This in turn speeds up global warming!


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