Home >Lounge >Features >Climate Change Tracker: Life in an oven

One of the eerie similarities between the covid-19 pandemic and climate change is that scientists have been warning nations to be vigilant for decades. The pandemic warning fell on deaf ears. Will climate change go the same way?

Governments need to answer this urgently because much of the current human habitat will be unviable in the next 50 years if greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions don’t drop drastically. A new study, Future Of The Human Climate Niche, published on 4 May in Proceedings Of The National Academy Of Sciences, states this unequivocally. Human beings have been thriving in a largely clement climate niche for 6,000 years. Much of the world’s population lives in regions with a mean average temperature of 11-15 degrees Celsius. Another swathe of humanity lives in a 20-25 degrees Celsius zone cooled by the Indian monsoon. With global heating escalating, large parts of this narrow niche are becoming uninhabitable and approaching “near unliveable" extremes, as the study’s authors put it.

Click here to listen to all the episodes from the first season of Mint Climate Change Tracker podcast

Allowing for demographic increase in the next 50 years, this will lead to up to 3.5 billion people falling outside the climate niche by 2070, including in India, where ideal conditions for a healthy life and food production, as we know it today, will just disappear. Much of the human climate niche will then be as hot as the Sahara, and since large-scale migrations will be nearly impossible, billions will suffer. The study says a strong and immediate climate mitigation strategy could reduce the population affected to 1.5 billion people. It adds that while global temperatures are set to rise by 3 degrees Celsius in 2100, the average human will experience a temperature increase of 7.5 degrees Celsius.

A look at data available with the India Meteorological Department bears this out. India’s annual average maximum temperature was 28.96 degrees Celsius in 1901 and 31.42 degrees Celsius in 2017, with a steadily rising trend. The same is true for annual average minimum temperatures (19.51 degrees Celsius in 1901; 21.17 degrees Celsius in 2017).

Follow the column with #MintClimateTracker. Click here to listen to the first season of the Mint Climate Change Tracker podcast hosted by Bibek Bhattacharya

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